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Book: “Fun & Games,” by Duane Swierczynski

I knew without a doubt that I would love “Fun & Games” (June 2011). I’d already read three other books by Duane Swiercyznski, all action-packed and very twisted in a fun-funny way. “Fun & Games” fit right in with the rest, and satisfied all my expectations. As I expected.

Charlie Hardie, an tough but damaged ex-cop with a lot of personal demons, has spent the last three years house-sitting all around the country. Someone pays him to watch their house while they’re gone, usually a few months, and he spends the time getting drunk, watching classic movies, and basically vegging out. Something happened three years ago that threw him into a deep, deep funk. (Obviously, we’re gonna learn what happened.)

His latest gig takes him to a swank house in the Hollywood foothills. But somebody beat him there–an actress named Lane Madden who, that morning, was nearly killed by a secret guild of assassins known as The Accident People. They conduct their hits like it’s a film production, with everything scripted out and a believable narrative. Very obsessive in that way.

Lane, who escaped and took refuge in this house, initially thinks Hardie is one of Them. But then they find themselves under siege, with a three-person team of The Accident People surrounding the house.

And it goes from there. It’s a little bit madcap, quite unpredictable, always fun. Movie references abound. A perfect melding of plot, characters, and locale.

Out of the blue, Swiercyzynski throws in a brief chapter which he titles “Interlude with Mildly Famous Killers.” We’re now in Barstow, Calif., and the first line reads, “The psychopaths came out of the desert, looking for some breakfast.” They take control of a quickstop, apparently aiming to kill the few people inside. And then we go right back to Charlie and Lane…knowing that, somehow, we’re going to be reunited with those psycopaths, but not having any clue as to how it will happen.

During the course of the book, we learn Lane Madden’s backstory (involving Blonde Viking God) and why she’s being targetted. And, of course, we learn what scarred Charlie Hardie.

I’ve been a fan of Swiercyznski for several years, since reading “Severance Package,” a very unique book set almost entirely in a claustrophic office suite and involving some kind of government killers who are being decommissioned. Later I read “The Wheelman,” and more recently, the quirky “The Blonde.” Nobody creates plots and premises like Swiercyznski. He’s a one-of-a-kind.

“Fun & Games” is entirely in that vein, except that it’s book one of a planned trilogy. There comes a point, a ways from the end, where I go, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.” Then the book ends with another surprise, and we’re all set up for the next book, which is called “Hell and Gone.” It’s available now, published in October 2011. I’m not sure I can wait very long.

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Book: “The Blonde,” by Duane Swierczynski

Duane Swierczynski has quite an imagination. His books are unusual, and unpredictable. Such was the case with “The Blonde” (2007).

I previously read two of his other books, “The Wheelman” from 2006 and “Severance Package” from 2008.” “The Blonde” would be in the same league as “Severance Package,” both of them dealing an ordinary guy caught up in the machinations of a super-secret government agency which specializes in assassinations. But whereas “Severance Package” takes place in one building during a span of a couple hours, “The Blonde” ranges from Great Britain to Mexico.

The first line is, “I poisoned your drink.” It’s spoken in a Philadelphia airport bar by The Blonde to Jack Eisley, a journalist passing through. Here’s the deal: she has been injected with nanites (tiny robots) which course through her blood. She must stay within 10 feet of someone at all times. If she doesn’t, the nanites will know, and her head will explode. Slipping poison into Jack’s drink, with the promise that he’ll die in 9 hours unless she gives him the antidote, is her way of keeping someone close.

The nanites trace back to a diabolical scientist named The Operator, who is following her. There’s another US agency involved, and they’ve sent a benevolence killer named Kowalski after her. Then Jack gets infected with the nanites, too–they can be transmitted through saliva, and in a weak moment he kissed the Blonde. So now he has to stay within 10 feet of someone at all times, too.

The book takes us on a wild ride through nighttime Philadelphia. As with Swierczynski’s other books, the plot is unpredictable. You just don’t know where things are headed, though it’s obvious a showdown is in the works.

I was surprised when THE END came after 225 pages, and another 50 pages remained. Those 50 pages were filled with a novella called “The Redhead,” which was a sequel to “The Blonde.” Interesting. “The Redhead” was very good.

I’ve become a big fan of Duane Swierczynski. He has a few other books out there, and a new one coming out in March 2011. I need to track these books down.

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Book: The Wheel Man

wheelman.jpegI picked up “Severance Package” at Hyde’s Bookstore. I’d never read anything by Duane Swierczynski (I had to copy and paste that name), but this sounded interesting. And it turned out to be a totally engrossing and very unusual thriller.

So for Christmas, I put Swierczynski’s other two books, “The Wheel Man” and “The Blonde,” on my list.

Pam got me “The Wheel Man.” And yesterday, I finished it. Took me just two days. 

The main character of “The Wheel Man,” Lennon, is a getaway car driver for bank robbers. The book starts with a bank robbery that goes bad, and that sets in motion a whole lot of mayhem. We follow Lennon around as he gets shot and beat up and abused in sundry ways, but keeps on ticking. 

The book reminded me of Mel Gibson’s movie “Payback,” where he plays a con named Porter (It’s based on a Donald Westlake novel, which I haven’t read). “Payback” is one of my favorite movies. You really don’t know what’s coming next. You can guess, but you’ll probably be wrong. 

“The Wheel Man” is like that. Whatever 90% of writers would do with a scene, Swierczynski does differently. It’s unpredictable. The plot never pauses; you just keep moving right along, helplessly. As a reader, I was magnetically drawn page by page to the end, which turned out to be satisfying and unexpected. Though by that point, I was expecting the unexpected.

I need to track down “The Blonde.” Swierczynski has a wicked imagination, and I’m anxious to read more.

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