Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

FUN & GAMES by Duane Swierczynski

I’ve been reading Duane Swierczynski for a few years now (almost long enough to spell his last name without looking), and I’ve enjoyed the books he’s written. He’s a stylist, providing hard driving, stripped down noir with characters readers tend to be more hypnotized by than enamored of. Most of them don’t have many soft spots, but they can’t afford those anyway because Swierczynski doesn’t allow them much of a breather or good times during the course of one of his novels. He’s also writing a lot of comics these days about characters who deal with the hardships he dumps on them there.

Fun & Games is the first novel of a trilogy coming from Mulholland Books, the mystery/suspense imprint of Little, Brown and Company. The series features ex-cop Charlie Hardie struggling to make sense of his life and world after unwillingly triggering the execution style slaying of a friend and his family. The back story intrigued me and made me feel sympathetic for Charlie, but I really didn’t have much time for that, because once Swierczynski shifted gears and let out the clutch, the story’s pacing and narrative tension kept me pinned to my chair.

Weirdly enough, but appropriately perhaps, Swierczynski drew inspiration for the plot from the real-life shenanigans of Hollywood actor Randy Quaid and his wife who went on the run and left hotel bills in their wake till they were finally caught. Quaid and his wife insisted that they were the targets of a clandestine group of “star killers.”

I don’t think anybody bought the story, but Swierczynski does his best to lend credence to the tale with Charlie’s first appearance. As it turns out, in the book, there are a group of people called the Accident People who kill stars. Who they are and why they do it are part of the mystery, which is threaded through gunfights, fist fights, and adrenaline-pounding flight.

I check my search for credibility in the book probably about the third or fourth chapter. It just doesn’t exist in this book. Fun & Games is a full-on action fest littered with violence, explosions, and blood. Claims have been made that the book (and the next two) are primarily pulp, but this is truly pulp on steroids. And it’s all leavened with Swierczynski’s sarcastic, biting wit.

Amazon has plot descriptions of the next two books, and they go even farther into the unbelievable than this book. I’m looking forward to them, but I know after reading this first one that I’m going to have to block out enough time to read them in a single sitting. Just like I did the first one.

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