Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review of Gun Work

The latest offering from Hard Case Crime, Gun Work, by David J Schow, a writer probably best known for his film adaptation of Jim O'Barr's The Crow, is a brutal, carefully constructed, relentlessly grim, and very satisfying tale of revenge. It's got hard men, dangerous women, a sordid setting, luchadors, and enough gun porn to make Wayne LaPierre a happy, happy man. It's as if Schow has tapped into some dark, testosterone filled vein in the male psyche and directly translated it onto the page. Did I mention the luchadors?

Gun Work starts simply enough. Barney, a fomer soldier, current firing range employee and general badass gets a call from Carl Ledbetter, a man who saved his life in Iraq. It seems Carl's wife has been kidnapped in Mexico, and Carl needs Barney's help to get her back. Barney goes because he feels obligated and because he likes being the go-to-guy in these situations. He's a hard case who needs no one and has no real commitments. Barney waltzes into the situation with a pretty cocky attitude, and things soon take a wrong turn, and his mission goes from one of recovery to one of revenge.

Along the way Barney is exposed to both the very worst and best that the human race has to offer, and Schow's novel is, like all good works of art, more than it seems on the surface. Schow delivers the goods in terms of action, but Gun Work also asks questions about how good and evil can exist side by side, growing out of the same soil, and it makes a strong statement about the necessity of learning to accept kindness with gratitude and repay it with friendship. Of course it also points out that it also helps to be a good shot.

Schow has written several other novels that are all out of print. If they are half as entertaining as Gun Work, their unavailability is a real shame.

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