Citizen Vince

This is a recommendation from the Nick Hornby book I read last month. Hornby is actually quoted on the back jacket and says about it:

This terrific book…is smart, funny, dark, and moving-and Jess Walter is clearly a writer to watch.

As you know, I’m a big fan of crime fiction. I’m always looking for something that is “smart” and “dark,” so I was powerless and bought it even though I forgot my 30% off coupon from Borders Rewards. Oh well, I agree with Hornby for the most part, so it was a good purchase.

It’s the story of Vince, a small-time crook who testified against some very bad people in New York City, and now spends his time making donuts and partaking in credit card fraud in Seattle while in the witness protection program. Everything is clipping along fine, until a hired killer from the old neighborhood finds him.

Vince is a cool guy. At first it seems like it’s a classic “I’m gonna get out of the game as soon as I make enough money” crime novel. But it’s a lot deeper than that. There’s this sensitive relationship between Vince and his hooker friend who wants to be a real estate agent. There’s Vince buying and borrowing books so he can have one in-hand every morning when the beautiful woman comes into the donut shop (he starts the books, but never finishes them). There’s the beautiful woman’s local politician friend that Vince peppers with questions about his platform. And there’s Vince’s ongoing internal and external debate about whether to vote for Reagan or Carter (yes, the book takes place in 1980). All provide comic relief, character depth, and thoughtful diversions from your concern about this nice criminal with destructive tendencies.

There are even a few cool back stories. One is about the Seattle cop tracking Vince to New York. It is really moving. Another is about the local politician that Vince befriends for a night. Each story takes some very intense turns. You are on the edge of your seat at times, laughing at times, and learning at times.

Great stuff, thanks Hornby for doing me up with a good rec.