Monday, February 10, 2014
Review of Dana King's GRIND JOINT
I read tons and tons of books. Last count, I’m averaging 3 ½ novels a week. That’s a lot. The truly great ones I try to provide reviews for. At last count, I’m about 15 books behind. Here’s one I read several weeks ago and just re-read it. For the third time. That kind of tells you how I liked it, I think. But, if that wasn’t a big enough clue, here are some other thoughts I had about it:
GRIND JOINT by Dana King
One of the best novels I’ve read this year. Period. I’d read three of King’s novels previous to this one and waited and waited for it to become available on Kindle and finally I went ahead and bought the paperback copy, simply because I couldn’t wait any longer. (Note: get the other three—they’re as good as this one is.)
I’m glad I did. Not so much because I finally got to read it—that’s a for-sure plus—but because I’ve now got a physical copy. That’s important because there are dozens and dozens of techniques I want to steal for my own writing and to pass on to my writing students and this just makes it easier to bookmark and make the theft and get out before I’m caught.
In some of the reviews I’d read of GRIND JOINT, it was often mentioned that King was bringing back to life the subgenre of mafia crime books. I guess I’m out of touch—I never realized it had died. Well, if it had, this definitely gave the genre new life. And, if it hasn’t, this is pumping steroids into it. Make room at the table, Mario Puzo…
Reviews very often aren’t about the book itself so much as they are about the reviewer. Some see that as a negative. Not this reviewer. Sure, the plot is complex and sound and tight. Sure, the characters are entirely interesting and plausible. Sure, the world it contains is realistic and well-drawn. All "reviewery" things. But, I read differently than someone who’s not a writer and is just looking for a great way to kill some time. GRIND JOINT does that for sure, but what impressed me more than anything is that I consciously looked for weak places—places I could set it down easily and go and do something else. Well, very few books are capable to achieving that kind of deep hypnosis upon me… but this one did. It’s simply Grade A, Top Quality, Sterling Silver. 24-Carat Can’t-Put-It-Down. Trust me on this. Better: Don’t trust me. Grab a copy and see if I’m not right. I couldn’t find a single page anywhere in it that didn’t grab and hold my interest. Not a single page. This guy's a writer's writer.
If you like an insider’s look at the criminal world and are intrigued at stories that reveal how people “in the life” think and what drives their actions, this is the book for you. If you enjoy stories that draw back the curtain on the seamy side of town as well as on the good side of the tracks (which aren't much different), this is the book for you. If you get your adrenaline going when you encounter a protagonist you want to hang with and have beers with, this is the book for you.
If you prefer novels about vampires and fifty ways to make your eyeballs bleed and your trouser worm get exercise, and characters that are 6’8”, Hollywood-blond, can bench-press Buicks, go 24 hours without sleep, food or water, and can defeat 9,000 ninjas in warehouses (why are these guys always in warehouses?), and only need a toothbrush and a micro chip inside them that draws bad guys to their vicinity like six-year-olds to chicken nuggets to make their lives complete... then this probably isn’t the book for you.
One reviewer said she finished reading this book “on a gurney in an emergency room with crying kids, a car accident victim and a loud drunk” keeping her company, and she “barely noticed them,” then, yeah, this is your kind of book.
It’s exactly like that.