American Skin

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Stephen Blake is a good man blown in bad directions. He and girlfriend Siobhan, best friend Tommy, IRA terrorist Stapleton, and a particularly American sort of psychopath named Dade, are all on a collision course somewhere between the dive bars of New York and the pitiless desert of the Southwest. This is the long-awaited American novel by Ken Bruen, the hard-boiled master of Irish noir.

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Stephen Blake is a good man blown in bad directions. He and girlfriend Siobhan, best friend Tommy, IRA terrorist Stapleton, and a particularly American sort of psychopath named Dade, are all on a collision course somewhere between the dive bars of New York and the pitiless desert of the Southwest. This is the long-awaited American novel by Ken Bruen, the hard-boiled master of Irish noir.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Irish noir writer Ken Bruen (The Dramatist, The Magdalen Martyrs, et al.) pays homage to the American Dream in American Skin (entitled, appropriately, after a classic Bruce Springsteen tune), an absolute bloodbath of a crime fiction thriller that centers on an Irishman who participates in a bank heist and is forced to flee to America to outrun the Irish authorities -- and more than a few major-league psychos bent on doing him extreme bodily harm.

Stephen Blake is in way over his head. After unwillingly taking part in a Galway bank robbery in which his buddy Tommy was killed, Blake takes the money and, with the help of his girlfriend, Siobhan, heads to America where he plans to meet up with her in a few weeks. Unfortunately for Blake, the highly irate -- and completely insane -- IRA terrorist who masterminded the bank heist wants his money back. To complicate matters, Blake makes mortal enemies of two of the most frighteningly sociopathic characters to ever hit crime fiction: Sherry, a drop-dead-gorgeous femme fatale who makes Charles Manson look like a boy scout, and Dade, a "pure evil" serial killer obsessed with Tammy Wynette.

Like getting sucker-punched with brass knuckles or kneecapped with a lead pipe, readers will not soon forget American Skin. Bruen's novel is arguably his best work to date; fueled by an inexhaustible supply of Jameson whiskey and just about every illegal narcotic known to man, this unrepentantly sadistic novel is like an out-of-control train that speeds off the tracks -- on the very first page! What comes next is a jaw-dropping existential trek across the surreal and often nightmarish landscape that is American pop culture: from The Simpsons to Charles Bukowski and from crystal meth to The Sopranos. Bruen's latest is a visceral, visionary masterwork; underneath all the graphic bloodshed and drug-induced chaos, however, are deeply profound, darkly poetic themes -- self-determination, redemption, trust, faith, etc. -- that will surely affect everyone who reads this extraordinary and truly unforgettable book. An instant noir cult classic -- bottle of Jameson not included. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
At the start of Bruen's dark tribute to the Irish fascination with the American dream, Stephen Blake is on the run after a bank heist, hoping to disappear in the desert near Tucson. He has the money, and his girlfriend, Siobhan, knows how to launder it. All he has to do is change his accent, his skin and pass as American. But John A. Stapleton, hit man for the IRA, wants more than his share of the swag, and the psychotic Dade, obsessively devoted to the music of Tammy Wynette, is wandering the Southwest like a slaughter wagon. Noir master Bruen (The Guards) effortlessly moves his story line back and forth in time, all his trademark pop culture references in place, the banshee of existential agony wailing loud. At times, though, the violence becomes cartoonish, and potential showdowns just do not rock if you've got Frankenstein and the Wolfman in one castle, they really need to wreck some furniture for a few pages. Still, Bruen fans will be enthralled. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bruen, poster boy for Irish noir (Calibre, 2006, etc.), exports his product to the U.S. and colors it even darker. When does a bad guy cross the line from villain to monster? This time around, Bruen presents three Iagos, two males and a distaff version. If there's a saving grace among them, it's buried beyond redemption. Here's Sherry's mom on her Messalina-like daughter: "You walk into a room, you feel the cold, you know she has been here." About John A. Stapleton, unreconstructed IRA terrorist, it is said, "Stapleton gets in your life, he's all over it, like a virus." As for Dade, their sibling under the skin, he's first presented in the act of wiping out an essentially blameless family-husband, wife, two kids, ages ten and four, simply because he can. The foil to this horrifying trio is Stephen Blake, a quintessential Bruen protagonist: a smart, tough, sensitive boozer who's honed self-loathing to an art through the years. He's reluctantly become the principal in a major theft. With his luckless lover, Siobhan, he makes plans for the money, a new beginning in the New World. But Bruen's fans will know that monsters lie in wait. There are the usual rewards in terms of style, pace and, yes, flashes of mordant wit, but be warned: This is Bruen beyond noir into full-out stygian. Agent: Brian DeFiore/DeFiore & Company
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932112498
  • Publisher: Justin, Charles & Co.
  • Publication date: 10/25/2007
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.86 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A fun tale

    In Galway, Ireland Stephen Blake reluctantly participates in a bank robbery in which his friend is killed. He escapes with the loot and after consulting with his girlfriend Siobhan flees to Tucson, Arizona where he is to hide as an American Siobhan will join him shortly with the plan being she will launder the money.--------------- The IRA leader who arranged the heist wants its booty. Crazy outraged hitman John A. Stapleton comes to America to take back what is his however, John A. plans to eliminate anyone who knows about the money. Blake also runs into other problems in spite of his effort to remain figuratively buried in the desert. He meet femme fatale killing machine Sherry and Tammy Wynette¿s biggest fan Dade, who kills anyone who fails to stand by his singer. This fearsome five will soon collide turning the southwest into a ferocious dead zone.-------------- This Irish visitor Noir is an over the Rocky Mountains thriller that hooks fans of Ken Bruen from the moment the key quintet is introduced and never slows down until the desert storm is over. The story line is action-packed as the audience anticipates a multiple High Noon shoot out in which there is no telling who the last man or woman standing will be. Violence may be as American as cherry pie, but Mr. Bruen takes murder and mayhem to caricature levels in this fun tale.--------- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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