You should be reading John McFetridge. It’s as simple as that, really. The guy is one of the most exciting and ambitious motherfuckers in the crime writing game today and you should read every fucking thing he puts to paper – the end.
Well, okay, I’ll fucking elaborate for you some: You really should start at the very beginning as (if Julie Fucking Andrews is to be believed) it’s a very good place to start. That would put you first at Dirty Sweet. Then you’re doing up Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and then Let It Ride and before you know it you’ve arrived at Tumblin’ Dice, his latest and greatest thus far. It’s not essential to enjoying his work that you read his shit in order but it sure as shit helps.
See, I liken his series on the detectives and Saints of Hell Motorcycle Club members of Toronto to watching a great serialized-ish show like Justified. You can jump in at a random episode (or book, as it were) and get enough enjoyment out of the central conflict of the piece, but there’s gonna be all this other shit on the edges of the story you’re not gonna fully appreciate.
Every book has a couple of characters pulling some sort of Elmore Leonard-ian scam, maybe having a love affair (in Tumblin’ Dice the scammers and the couple are not one and the same as in previous books) that you can follow along with, but the greater story (the season-long arc, if you will) is what you’re really there for. You want to see how Detective McKeon is handling sobriety and her new baby. You wanna see how Nugz and Danny Mac are holding down the fort as the Saints take over more and more of Canada’s underworld.
The stars of the “disposable” story of sorts in the latest “episode” of McFetridge’s on-going-though-not-on-TV-for-some-fucking-reason-TV-series concerns members of the seventies rock band The High who are doing the casino circuit. It’s a cushy-enough gig but lead singer Cliff and sociopathic bass player Barry have found a way to make it more profitable for themselves. Basically, they rob the shylocks (who give degenerate gamblers cash for jewelry and other items they’re willing to pawn) who post up in the Indian casinos’ parking lots. Even after Cliff is nearly killed and the shylock they tried to rip off no-nearly-about-it is killed the two don’t give up on their scheme.
When they see the next stop on their tour is at Huron Woods Casino in Ontario, they get a different grift in mind. Turns out the entertainment director is Frank Kloss, their manager from back in their heyday who screwed them into a shit contract that left them making jack shit off their hits. With their new-found balls you better believe these two are planning to get theirs from the mobbed up asshole.
But Kloss has problems of his own, namely that his eyes are bigger than his stomach. Though he’s got a good thing going with the Philadelphia mob, Kloss wants to bring in Saints of Hell from Toronto, offering them a place to do business and launder their money. In the middle of this potential mob war is Angie Maas, an old flame of The High’s guitarist Ritchie now working under Kloss. With the cool and confident Ritchie coming back into her life and the spark reigniting t00t-fucking-sweet, it looks like Angie might be able to make it out of her dangerous lifestyle sooner than she thinks.
With his strikingly original but smooth sailing prose and his alternately funny and badass dialogue, McFetridge pulls you into this massive world with its huge cast almost effortlessly, the story managing to be deeply complex without the reader ever being fully aware of it. Every character gets a great scene or two, shit takes some surprising turns, and then it wraps up in a sly and ridiculously tantalizing way. Like in a great TV show finale, Tumblin’ Dice is extremely satisfying while also making you wish another year would fly by so you could find out what happens in the next season’s premiere.