Monday, January 26, 2009

Charlie Stella on Pariah

I sent Charlie a copy of Pariah knowing he'd get a kick out of the South Boston mob angle of the book, and yep, Charlie liked it enough to write the following review:

Evil incarnate …

Evil comes in all forms. The Hitler prototype is perhaps the one we’re all best familiar with, but there have been others we can confidently label evil (even if their kill totals are on a much lesser scale). Certain serial killers fit the description and/or sociopaths in the business world guilty of bankrupting the elderly without an iota of remorse might qualify. There have been bad guys out on the streets, whether acting solo or in groups (organized or not) who’ve more than qualified (and some who’ve managed to bilk the system one further and cut deals to walk free again—trading off 20 or more murders for a little inside info the helpless feds might need).

It happened in Boston when Whitey Bulger in a deal to aid the FBI gave up the New England Italian mob. Later, with a little help from his friends (the FBI), Whitey went on the lam and hasn’t been heard from since (and remains on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list). His FBI handlers didn’t fare so well and are doing time, but that’s a whole other enchilada.

Dave Zeltserman’s latest entry to the world of noir (Pariah) features the victim of a Whitey Bulger-like character whose just been released from serving out his term (a conviction that was a set up from start to finish). Kyle Nevin is an anti-hero and a half and a weapon of mass destruction in his own right. His story is a train wreck that is very difficult to take one’s eyes from (as I found myself reading forward at every opportunity … on the train, the ferry, the next train … the bathroom, etc.). A page turner from the moment Kyle is met by his brother Danny outside the prison he’s just been released from, Pariah moves fast and furious through a series of events motivated by vengeance and a lust for the old life (and all the power) Nevin’s been missing.

Upon seeing how much his younger brother has yielded to the legit life (i.e., driving the Honda {and brother don’t I know that feeling}, living in a hell hole apartment, living under the bland girlfriend’s rules, etc.), Kyle needs to bring Danny back and fast for he has a game plan that will not only set them both up for life, it’ll facilitate his vendetta for the man that put him behind bars for eight years.

There’s something else going on you won’t get from this review but it has to do with a “fictional” book deal based on Kyle’s game plan gone horribly awry. Author Dave Zeltserman also offers us some of good old fashioned male chauvinist sexual perspectives (what, say, the Queen of Noir, Vicki Hendricks, does for women) and it’s a nice change to read something from a writer unafraid of offending the politically correct.

But back to that hint of the publishing angle to this missile of a read. Wannabe tough guys love to talk about themselves (it’s a fact of street life); the more grandiose the tales, the less likely there’s any validity to them, but talk they will. Civilians call them “tall tales” or “fish stories” … street guys call them “war stories” … but turning such stories (no matter where the genesis) into publishing gold is something special. Think it doesn’t happen? A guy named Michael Pellegrino once passed himself off as a member of the Gambino crime family and got a $500,000 advance for a tell-all book (until he was exposed as a fraud and sued by Simon and Schuster). Somebody forgot to perform the due diligence, eh?

There are notes to an editor interspersed throughout Zeltserman’s Pariah and they will keep you alert as to what is likely going down … except then there’s a sharp turn that sweeps the rug from under some feet (including the readers) and all (in the form of justice—no matter how it comes about) is suddenly not lost.

For those who prefer the darker slice of life, Pariah will keep you glued to its pages. The chain reaction of Kyle Nevin’s release from prison on the world around him is the stuff of nuclear explosions. Violent, sexual and relentless, there are no holds barred anywhere in this wonderful launch into evil. The meek beware … be-very-ware.

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