It takes considerable skill to craft a gripping novel approaching 300 pages in which nothing much happens during the first 150. Fortunately for the readers of Norman Green's first book, Shooting Dr. Jack
, Green's got the knack, in spades. His characters aren't drawn, they're acid-etched. His landscape, seamlessly rendered, is a gray, emotionless void:
Fall through the cracks of a better and kinder world, and you find yourself on Troutman Street. Dreams of a new world die in her sweatshops, cars and trucks die in her chop shops and junkyards, children die in her vacant lots, shooting one another for the right to sell crack on the two or three big intersections, junkies die wherever they happen to be when they shoot up--hallways, alleys, parking lots.
Tommy Rosselli, a.k.a. Fat Tommy, a.k.a. Tommy Bagadonuts, is a relatively brilliant entrepreneur who, while largely operating beyond the law, nonetheless owns a good and honest heart. Stoney, Tommy's brutal partner in a shady Brooklyn junkyard, is a smoldering alcoholic struggling to bring his body, soul, wife, and kids into some approximation of normalcy. And 18-year-old Eddie Tuco, an illiterate "Nuyorican" who works for Tommy and Stoney, faces temptation, redemption, and loss as a result.
Tommy and Stoney need to find out who left two dead teenagers in the junkyard, who killed their accountant, who ambushed Tommy in his apartment, who's been shadowing their employees, and why. Tuco does too, but he's got some demons to wrestle and scores to settle on his own. Rounding out this vision of desperation are the eponymous Dr. Jack--the name of both a drug and its dealer, which affect their users as Dr. Kevorkian affects his patients--and the junkyard's blighted Troutman Street landscape itself.
Not a mystery in the truest sense and not a thriller by most standards, Shooting Dr. Jack is both of those things and more. It's intelligent, it grabs like a vice in due course, and its dialogue and narrative resonate with urban grit and truth. --Michael Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
If nothing concentrates the mind like an imminent hanging, then second place may well be the looming presence of a couple of South American hit men, who in this self-assured debut have their eyes on the Troutman Street junkyard of Fat Tommy Rosselli, a.k.a. Tommy Bagadonuts. Fat Tommy rules his junkyard like a small-scale godfather, finessing the cops and looking out for his partner Stoney and young associate Tuco. He helps Tuco get a new place to live when Tuco's girlfriend throws him out, and he worries about Stoney's drinking (with good reason Stoney has been blacking out, and it's ruining his marriage). But when Fat Tommy is shot and critically injured by someone he knows, and South American hit men show up, the refrain of his cohorts becomes, "What would Tommy do?" From here on in, this novel about small-time crooks on the shady edge of the law turns into a weirdly compelling tale of character growth and redemption, of a sort. Green does an excellent job of setting up Troutman Street, which runs between Brooklyn and Queens, as not just a road but a self-contained world of its own. The sharply drawn characters and the clever nicknames will invite comparisons to Elmore Leonard, but there's little of Leonard's flash and cockiness here, only a gritty realism, an attention to detail, and a resolute avoidance of clichs that speaks of a writer with his own style and his own story to tell about how men smart enough to see the trap they're in can become smart enough to escape it. (Sept.)Forecast: Green's strong voice bodes well for this debut and future books; blurbs from Perri O'Shaughnessy and Jeffrey Deaver, a 25-city radio campaign and a five-city author tour should get the word out.
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