Genre: Humorous Crime Fiction
Pub First Date: 2001
Publisher: UglyTown Publishing/Dell Books
Length: 274 pages
Paperback : Orion Tech on Amazon (£5.87)
Charlie Swift just pumped three .38-caliber [sic] bullets into a dead polar bear in his taxidermist girlfriend’s garage. But he’s a gun monkey, and no one can blame him for having an itchy trigger finger. Ever since he drove down the Florida Turnpike with a headless body in the trunk of a Chrysler, then took down four cops, Charlie’s been running hard through the sprawling sleaze of central Florida. And to make matters worse, he’s holding on to some crooked paperwork that a lot of people would like to take off his hands. Now, with his boss disappeared and his friends dropping like flies, Charlie has got his work cut out just to survive. If he wants to keep the money and get the girl too, he’s really going to have to go ape…
Gun Monkeys(Back Cover Book Blurb)
That little scene was enough to make me pay out some cash for this title. Gangsters and polar bears? I thought, I gotta have me some of this.
I came to read Gun Monkeys via Twitter of all places. I ‘Follow’ the author, Victor Gischler simply because I find his Tweets amusing. He has a slight acerbic tone laced with humour, writer rants (don’t we all) and glimpses into his family life (such as which film he will be watching with his young son). I’m late to the show – as you can see by the publishing date – but better late than never.
Gun Monkeys has been called by some, a Florida comic crime caper, and Gishler’s love of Noir, crime, gangsters and history of comic writing comes through in this novel.
I usually take longer than most people I talk to, to read a book these days (weeks), I seem to be slowing down as I get older, but the pace of writing and regular action kept me moving along, so I completed it in three days (a record for me!)
Charlie Swift is one of the gun monkeys of the title, he works for crime boss Stan as an enforcer. He is a stereotypical anti-hero – bad guy with redeeming qualities. Many of the characters fit the expected Film Noir tropes – gangster with a heart and a ‘Ma’ he loves, a sassy, intelligent female, Marcie, whom Charlie falls for because, like Charlie, she can she the necessity for plastic sheeting and the multiple uses of duct tape, “I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer’s headless body in the trunk, and all the time I’m thinking I should’ve put some plastic down.” A lumbering, huge muscle guy, Lou, and sleek-suited mob boss, Mercury. Despite being set in the present day, the lingo used often sounds a little like that spoken by gangsters in the 40’s and 50’s movies – BUT – it doesn’t feel dated, or clichéd. Instead, it moves along at a cracking speed, as Charlie attempts to help his boss, track down the ‘other’ bad guys and deal with consequences that keep springing up.
Charlie is a crack shot with a gun we are told, yet he doesn’t have it all his own way. To be honest, Charlie has a hell of a time. I don’t know if I’d ever want to be friends with Charlie Swift, but I didn’t dislike him, ever, even when he pumps a bullet into some guys knee (and worse).
I found Gishler’s writing and characterisation to be solid, and although the territory – Noir Gangster-land – is very familiar to me, I found a freshness to this writing, which I reckon is pretty difficult to do without slipping on the cliché banana.
There are some nice comic touches, although as the story progresses the comic elements lessen. There is a lot of violence, but nothing stomach churning. There’s a high body count, but meh, isn’t that the world of gangsters? It’s pulp fiction, it’s fun- despite the violence, it’s overflowing with swearing, it’s contemporary hard-boiled, it’s not Raymond Chandler, but it was an enjoyable read, enough so that I will be taking a further delve into the work of Victor Gischler.
I’m giving Gun Monkeys