Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sideswipe (Charles Willeford, 1987)

Another highly enjoyable ride full of thrills and quirky characters with my new best friend Hoke Moseley. It continues from where New Hope for the Dead has finished. Hoke now lives together with pregnant Ellita Sanchez and his two teenage daughters but for some reason he has just had enough. It could be the pile of cold cases at work or simple case of midlife crisis. Willeford thankfully doesn't even bother to tell us what exactly has made him so fed up with the world. One morning he simply suffers a nervous breakdown (I think) so he decides that he needs to simplify his life. He moves to small tourist resort and starts managing his father's small motel.

But there will be crime of course. Because parallel to Hoke's story we follow formation of a very peculiar gang, weird even by Willeford's high standard of craziness. Its leader Troy with reptilian looks is self proclaimed criminal psychopath who in prison befriends an elderly Stanley. Also psychopath but not yet criminal one, as for the time being he seems to be happy enough by occasional dog poisoning. These two men form some kind of weird father/son homosexual relationship and are joined by Troy's hot ex-stripper girlfriend with disfigured face and failed abstract artists.

Sideswipe feels like a combination of the first two Hoke's novels. Structure of mixing his personal story and gang preparing for a job is almost identical to the one from Miami Blues and little episodes concerning his daughters keep the tone similar to New Hope for the Dead. There's once again a mandatory minor case that Hoke solves along the way. There's a robbery in the local hotel and he helps the police force to find the thief.

Troy's gang is so colorful and such an insane bunch of characters that it almost threatens to steal the entire show from Hoke at times. Sometimes I could almost sense that Willeford was aware of that and that he would react by giving his hero some additional storyline to prove that he still is the main man. One of the novel's highlights is the episode where Hoke promptly ships his daughter to her mother on the first plane to L.A. immediately after he learns that she has some weird medical problems (bulimia) and doesn't have a clue how to deal with it. And she's accompanied by some lowlife teenager that Hoke has just met 10 hours before. She informs his wife that she's a trained nurse and to make sure they would stay together he even handcuffs both girls together!

Don't like to repeat myself, but this is truly great stuff. Simple and effective. Funny but also ugly at times. Full of black humor but also compassion.

And maybe it also comes with a message. Is life even possible to be simplified?



Sergeant Hoke Moseley

Miami and Ocean Mall where Hoke is recuperating and trying to simplify his life.

Body count: 6 (+one baby in the past)

Possibly Ellita Sanchez and questionably disfigured Dale Forrest, once Miss Bottlecapping Industry of Daytona Beach. And Hoke's daughter Sue Ellen is on the right track to become a real babe - she had grown a green mohawk and went to see Dead Kennedys gig (ticket costing 35$!!?).

None, unless we count that weird nervous breakdown.

Another intriguing one that escapes my understanding. Did check few online dictionaries but couldn't find anything relevant. Any suggestions?

Nice and in the same style as the rest of Penguin reprints of Hoke Moseley novels. Maybe a little to similar to Miami Blues.

Cool lines:  
Like mentioned, Hoke is still our main man, but this time I will use cool lines to let Troy explain his complex personality:

I'm a professional criminal, what the shrinks call a criminal psychopath.[The Coolest!]

What it means is, I know the difference between right and wrong and all that, but I don't give a shit. That's the official version. Most men in prison are psychopaths, like me, and there are times - when we don't give a shit - when we act impulsively.
- I don't have time to go into all of the ramifications of my personality, it's too complex. I've been tested again and again, and it always comes out the same. Psychopath. And because I'm a criminal, I'm also a criminal psychopath. You follow me?
- Yeah, I think so. But if you aren't crazy, what are you?
- It's what I told you already. I know the difference between good and bad, but it makes no difference to me. If I see the right thing to do and want to do it, I do it, and if I see the wrong thing and want to do it, I do that too.
- You mean you can't help yourself then?
- Certainly I can. I'll put it another way. I can help myself, but I don't give a damn.
- And because you don't give a damn, you're a criminal psychopath, is that it?
- You've got it.
- But why don't you give a damn?
- Because I'm a criminal psychopath. Maybe, when they give you some tests, you might could be one, too.

Smoking comforts ordinary men, but I'm not an ordinary man. There aren't many like me left. And it's good thing for the world that there isn't. There'll always be a few of us in America, in every generation, because only a great country like America can produce men like me.I'm not a thinker, I'm a doer. I'm considered inarticulate, so I talk a lot to cover it up. [The Coolest!]

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