Expiration Date follows ex-journalist (is there any other kind these days?) Mickey Wade as he plummets to rock bottom, sleeping in his comatose grandfather’s shitty apartment and spending his last dime on a supply of beer and peanut butter. At least his hot best friend Meghan has yet to abandon him, but when Mickey tells her that Grandpop’s Tylenol makes him travel back in time to 1972, that puts some strain on the relationship. Soon Mickey is popping pills like a fiend, figuring out this new world and his capabilities within it and, most importantly, trying to prevent his father’s death in 1980 from ever occuring.
If you’re familiar with Duane Swierczynski’s shit (and if you’re not, you know, make some fucking life changes toot-sweet), you might expect this story to be a ticking clock, multiple perspectives whiz-bang-thrill-ride along the lines of The Wheelman, The Blonde and Severance Package. That’s a reasonable enough expectation, but Expiration Date fits better within the world of Swierczynski’s lesser known first novel, Secret Dead Men. Date is in first person, slower paced, not terribly violent, and Swierczynski’s most personal novel to date, but that’s not to say it isn’t entertaining as all hell.
As ever, evidence of Swierczynski’s lust for Philadelphia coats every page (yeah, I crack myself up), with the contrast between the present and past Frankford area dominating most of the action. His prose is clean and the action never flags, new rules and twists popping up every couple of pages and hurtling you helplessly towards the climax. In other words, what you’d hope for in a Swierczynski novel.
But as I said, this shit ain’t the down-and-dirty nastiness of his last three solo novels. Expiration Date was intended as a serialized novel to be read in the New York Times Sunday Magazine like Elmore Leonard’s Comfort to the Enemy a few years back. It didn’t work out because, you know, newspapers are eating it lately (jesus, this has become the print-bashing review) and the feature was canceled before the story could be published. As with Leonard’s contribution to the series, Expiration Date is less violent and profane than you would expect from the writer, seeing how it was at one time meant to be lain before the eyes of tote-bag-carriers with delicate, soy milk-ish sensibilities.
But don’t let that shit be a deterrent, dear reader, just a heads up. Swierczynski is one of the great “just one more chapter won’t hurt, I’ll still be able to function in the morning” writers the crime world has today, and Expiration Date is nowhere near a fucking exception. Pick that shit up and for-fucking-go some sleep toot-fucking-sweet, dear reader.