The Nerd is all about full disclosure, dear reader, at least as much disclosure as a dude who writes under a ridiculous pseudonym and behind a Charles Neslon Reilly on velvet portrait avatar can muster, anyway. The full disclosure I refer to is this: I do not own an e-reader of any sort. I’m still on the fence about which one to get, which one will help me best in my book reviewing endeavors, which one will be the betamax and which will be the VHS, the HD DVD to the Blu-Ray. I’m also opposed to reading PDF files on my laptop when I could be doing more constructive things like looking at cute cat videos (that Maru is pretty fucking amazing, right?) or looking at insane pornography. (Oh and writing, I guess.)
That said, when I was floated a PDF of Matthew McBride’s debut Frank Sinatra in a Blender for review purposes, I gave it a quick peek. I’ve liked McBride as a short story writer, twitter and blogging personality for some time now and I thought I’d give his opening pages a look, see what he was working with. Well, a busted night of writing and five cups of coffee later, I got more than just an eyeful: I fucking finished the shit out of it, and if your tastes run anywhere near as dark as the Nerd’s I can guarantee your experience will be tres-fucking-similar.
We open with ex-cop/current private eye and professional drunk Nick Valentine called in by the chief, his surrogate father following the death of his cop father, to look at a crime scene. A manager at a credit union was murdered but his body made to look like a suicide, and sloppily so at that. Not long after there’s a shootout at the credit union where the victim worked and a few motherfuckers end up deader than shit before a huge amount of cash is made off with. Now Valentine’s hitting up strip clubs and crime world associates in search of the perpetrators and, more importantly, a cut of the missing money for himself. His dog, the Frank Sinatra of the title, and his nasty habits need to be fed, after all.
The Nerd is leery of private eye stories and drunk private eyes in particular but McBride ups the stakes with Valentine. Dude is trying to kick cigarettes but not slowing down in the slightest with his boozing, coking and oxycontinizing, making for some Jack Taylor-like lapses in judgment that a sober PI would never allow for. But when he’s on the right level of buzzed he’s pretty sharp and his Peckinpah-like code is strong. Like a Peckinpah antihero Valentine does some pretty heinous things (he’s less interested initially in getting the thieves than taking a slice of their massive take, after all) but when it comes down to it he wants the right people dead and the decent-enough ones alive. Plus, dude carries a shotgun, a .45 and a chainsaw in his car, all of which come into play in glorious ways.
McBride also keeps shit nothing short of lively throughout, giving us a stacked deck of a cast of low-lifes for Valentine to plow through and to plow through each other. We switch from a first-person perspective in the Valentine passages to third-person on the assorted tweakers and St. Louis gangsters, allowing for McBride to inhabit all sorts of characters while still keeping Valentine’s struggle at the fore. The plotting is a non-stop game of follow-the-money in the classic noir sense and the violence happens often and is gleefully depicted with certain characters meeting their gory ends before you expect and others stepping up as the focus for a while in their place.
The Nerd would definitely be up for another drug-addled ride with Valentine in the future, but then again I’m pretty much on board for whatever McBride wants to throw out there. Hopefully by the next time he drops another novel the Nerd will have leapt off the fence on the e-book reader decision, but even if I haven’t by then I’m pretty sure a night of laptop reading will be a startlingly easy task.