Calling Mr. Kingby Ronald De Feo
Long considered cool, distant, and absolutely reliable, an American-born hit man, working throughout Europe, grows increasingly distracted and begins to develop an unexpected passion for architecture and art while engaged in his deadly profession. Although he welcomes this energizing break from his routine, he comes to realize that it is an unwise trajectory for a
Long considered cool, distant, and absolutely reliable, an American-born hit man, working throughout Europe, grows increasingly distracted and begins to develop an unexpected passion for architecture and art while engaged in his deadly profession. Although he welcomes this energizing break from his routine, he comes to realize that it is an unwise trajectory for a man in his business, particularly when he is sent on the most difficult job of his career.
Set in London, Paris, New York, and Barcelona, Calling Mr. King is at once a colorful suspense tale, laced with dark humor, and a psychological self-portrait of a character who is attempting, against the odds, to become someone else.
“Prepare to be unsettled, but take our word: De Feo’s concise voice and compelling characterization make this one worth it.” —Daily Candy
“It’s an engrossing story, persuasively depicting an angry, obsessive man as he comes to a greater awareness of the world around him…De Feo’s master strokes are in creating a remorseless psychopath you'd enjoy spending time with.” —Publishers Weekly
“De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews
“It’s J.J. Connolly’s Layer Cake (with its anonymous hit man, dreams of retirement dancing in his head) with an icing of Fodor's Barcelona. This quirky, promising debut novel argues that assassins are people, too, and sometimes, like it or not, that means they're aspiring art wonks.” —LibraryJournal.com
“Calling Mr. King is an entertaining tale built on what happens when a high-end hit man begins to feel the awakening of an intellectual life. Ronald De Feo invites the reader to play for a while in a seldom-explored part of the borderland between sanity and insanity.” —Thomas Perry, author of The Butcher’s Boy
“Ronald De Feo’s Calling Mr. King is the smartest novel I’ve read in years with a hit man in the leading role. His hit man, a very original, quirky hit man, takes us on an amazing side trip of the world’s capitals, the world’s art and architecture, which makes this knowledgeable hit man irresistible.” —Barbara Probst Solomon, US cultural correspondent of El País
A hit man discovers his inner aesthete. Uh-oh.
From childhood on, John Cole hated his old man with a passion. The permanently angry blue-collar worker would go into the woods outside their Hudson River town and shoot everything in sight. Cole inherited his father's expert marksmanship; he left home before they shot each other. Unemployed, he was hired to put his skill to good use...on a human target. He had found his profession. Word of his expertise spread. He moved to London to work for a world-wide conglomerate known as the Firm; he never missed his targets. But when we first meet the 33-year-old Cole, he has the nagging feeling that he's off his game. A quick job in Paris has taken a whole week, and he almost botches his next job, outside a Georgian house in the English countryside. He gets his man but is forced to shoot a bystander as well, breaking a cardinal rule. This is a terrific start. First-time novelist De Feo hooks us as he describes Cole tracking his quarry. These are clean kills; there is no splatter. The author also has a great premise: that a hired gun's need for a career change might take him in a wholly unexpected direction. That beautiful Georgian house has sparked Cole's imagination. Why couldn't he be the owner? He buys books on Georgian architecture. An escapist fantasy becomes a scholarly pursuit. The Firm sends him to New York to lie low after that countryside mess. Here the novel stalls; De Feo doesn't know what to do with Cole except have him buy more books and visit museums. He becomes a bore, moaning about his miserable childhood on a pointless visit to his hometown. By the final segment in Barcelona, Spain, scene of Cole's new assignment, his transformation is complete. The hit man, in denial, has become a student of Spanish architecture.
Though character development is a real problem, De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.
- Other Press, LLC
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Read an Excerpt
They didn’t tell me much. They never do. But they did say that the mark would be on a business trip. Well, what kind of business was all of this? As the time went by, I became absolutely convinced that he knew his days were numbered. And since he knew, he wanted to get a lot of living done before the end. What I was watching then, all of this peculiar energy, was very simply a pathetic attempt at a last fling.
In my line of work you can’t feel sorry for anyone, and I didn’t feel sorry for him. In fact, I began to resent him. He was aware of me—not me specifically, of course, but the idea of me in general, a stranger out there who was going to take his life. And he decided to toy with his killer, go out with a certain dignity and courage, throw his zest for life in my face, so to speak. What a fool. There was nothing to prove here, nothing to win at this point. He had lost the moment they had taken out a contract.
Maybe he was just plain stupid. I’d dealt with stupid marks before …But this man in Paris was something else again. He had a certain bearing. Thin, trim, with a healthy head of perfectly cut gray hair. You couldn’t miss it. It gleamed in the sun like polished silver. You could see he had taste and style—finely tailored, a different outfit each day. A real Continental. A killer with the ladies. Probably a killer, period. There was a certain intelligence, an alertness about him. Yes, this man knew exactly what he was doing. And although he seemed a bit past his prime now and rather harmless, I bet he’d been one clever, nasty bastard in his heyday. After all, they don’t want you dead for nothing.
Meet the Author
Ronald De Feo has written reviews for The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The New Republic, National Review, and Commonweal. His short fiction has appeared in such literary magazines as The Brooklyn Rail, The Hudson Review, and The Massachusetts Review. He worked at the Museum of Modern Art, was a senior editor of ARTnews Magazine, and served for many years on the editorial advisory board of Review Magazine, devoted to Latin American literature and the arts. This is his first novel.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I'm not one to read a "thriller" but something about the way this book was written and it's fascinating main character kept me turning those pages. A great character study.
John Cole's father lived 24/7 in a state of rage; his only passion was shooting anything. John loathed his angry bitter old man, but became an expert at shooting long distances. John left home before he and his dad had a Wild West gunfight overlooking the Hudson. John becomes a paid assassin. He quickly proves to be the top gun at his profession as his hits are surgically clean. Working for the Firm under the alias Peter Chilton, he has a perfect record of successful kills for over a decade. Now in his early thirties, Peter's last assignment in Paris should have taken a few hours, but he needed a week. His newest kill in the English countryside forced him to also take out an innocent bystander witness; the first time he broke the rules of international assassins. John dreams of retirement in the Georgian style home of his last victim. The Firm sends Peter to the Hudson to rusticate until the heat of the second kill cools off. John studies European architect until the Firm assigns Peter to Barcelona for his next hit. This character driven engaging thriller stars a fascinating schizoid protagonist who begins to fantasize about retirement and reinventing himself. The story line is at its best when Peter stars at the beginning and the ending as he brings the dichotomy of precise killing and dreaming of a sedate future; the plot becomes less insightful and slower towards the middle when John studies architectural design while hiding in New York. Still overall this is a strong look at a person using denial as a defense mechanism while considering his options when he retires from a violent illegal profession. Harriet Klausner