Monday, June 11, 2012

Nobody’s Angel (Jack Clark, 1996)

I was little misled by the cover which said author was Shamus Award finalist. Jack Clarke of course was nominee but not for this novel. And it would be highly unlikely to be nominated for anything related to the crime for this book. It’s well written and has unusual concept but it’s just not a crime novel. I was puzzled about why Hard Case published this in the first place and found answer on their website:

Nobody’s Angel, the author's first novel, was originally self-published in an edition of only 500 copies that the author sold for five dollars apiece to passengers in the Chicago taxi he drove for a living. Hard Case Crime is proud to give the book its first professional publication.

So I guess his break-through novel titled Westerfield’s Chain must had impressed editors so much they decided to publish this one. Which is intriguing and I’m putting it on my to-do list.

But anyway, if this is not a crime or mystery or thriller or espionage stuff etc, then what a hell is it? It’s basically about taxi driver Edwin Miles whose fellow taxi driver friend gets killed so Eddie spends next 200+ pages driving around Chicago describing city’s (and his own) sad history and layout of its streets and (of course) picking up passengers. At first it is somehow interesting and even amusing and I quite enjoyed it but then approximately halfway through I realized that this was all I was going to get. Because this guy has no system or technique or methodology and it became clear that crime will be solved by him eventually (after 25 fares!) picking up the killer.

So it’s not very good but at the same time it’s not bad at all. It's not too boring because there is another violent crime (so we have two serial killers!), some interesting characters are introduced (cops and other taxi drivers and maybe his fuck buddy, although stuff about his ex-wife and kid is totally redundant) and few of the adventures with his colorful passengers are also quite good. 

Well worth mentioning are chapters openings which cite official regulations from Chicago’s department for public vehicle operations. They give you a hint about what will follow and are (of course) written in this crazy bureaucratic language and some of them are hilarious. Like “…Wherever used in these rules, the use of the masculine gender includes the feminine gender; the singular includes the plural and the plural the singular.” 

It’s interesting and original stuff, obviously written from the experience and also from the heart and I would recommend it to anyone who lives in Chicago or plans to visit it. To me, those endless descriptions of areas and streets listings were just too repetitive and simply annoying towards the end. Felt like reading fucking Lonely Planet.



Eddie Miles, taxi driver


Body count: 1
Taxi fares count: 26

not really, maybe a victim hooker. Because he’s not her angel, he’s nobody’s angel.  

Cool lines:
“You know what a taxi rolling through the ghetto is?” I asked. “What’s that?” “An ATM on wheels.”

I looked back in the mirror. They were both watching me, phony smiles planted on their faces. She was a very old twenty-five. They were both hard looking, cheap white trash.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’ve got some money in the bank.” “Christ,” he said. “Never tell a lawyer that.”

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