Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing

What if somebody had a heart attack reading an exciting novel, and the Surgeon General determined that some novels ought to have medical warnings, and an MPAA-like board — the Literary Medical Review Committee, say — was formed to review and rate books? Then Caught Stealing would have a banner on the front cover that said something like “HH: Heart Healthy. The LMRC has determined that frank descriptions of stressful situations and graphic violence in this book may increase the risk of cardiac arrest.” Generally speaking, I’m happy that I haven’t just received a brutal beating that left me peeing blood, but I can’t remember the last time I was so specifically happy about that as when reading Caught Stealing.

Huston’s fast-moving noir has a lot more going for it than its possible ability to induce chest pains. It’s also very funny, thanks to narrator Hank Thompson’s singular outlook on life. (Not least of his charms is that even when he’s in fear of his life, he’s preoccupied with the San Francisco Giants struggle for the wild card. The structural divisions of the book reflect Hank’s concern, e.g., “Part One: September 22-28 2000 — Eight Regular Season Games Remaining.”)

Caught Stealing is the story of a more-or-less regular guy (although he has an interesting and unusual backstory) who is suddenly finds himself the target of a nasty clutch of heavies. Hank is an intermittently unreliable narrator in fine noir tradition, but mostly I think Huston’s game is to see how far he can push Hank’s situation and the reader’s sympathies. I was pretty far into this book before Hank took action that I couldn’t justify with some sort of “if I were in that crazy, amped-up situation, I can see how that might look like a reasonable option to me” logic. And by that point I had no problem with “I can how that might look like a reasonable option to Hank,” even if it also made me think, “whoah, waitaholdit I couldn’t go there.”

If you need further endorsement, I had to start reading the second (of three) Hank Thompson books, Six Bad Things more-or-less immediately after finishing Caught Stealing, even though there are already about a gazillion books in my to-read queue.

needs more demons? nuh-uh.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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