Citizen Vince
  • Citizen Vince
  • Citizen Vince

Citizen Vince

3.7 9
by Jess Walter

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"It's the fall of 1980, eight days before a presidential election that pits the downtrodden Jimmy Carter against the suspiciously sunny Ronald Reagan ("Are you better off than you were four years ago?"). In a quiet house in Spokane, Washington, Vince Camden wakes up at 1:59 A.M., pockets his weekly stash of stolen credit cards, and drops in on an all-night poker game…  See more details below


"It's the fall of 1980, eight days before a presidential election that pits the downtrodden Jimmy Carter against the suspiciously sunny Ronald Reagan ("Are you better off than you were four years ago?"). In a quiet house in Spokane, Washington, Vince Camden wakes up at 1:59 A.M., pockets his weekly stash of stolen credit cards, and drops in on an all-night poker game with his low-life friends on his way to his witness-protection job dusting crullers at Donut Make You Hungry. This is the sum of Vince's new life: donuts, forged credit cards, marijuana smuggled in jars of volcanic ash, and a neurotic hooker girlfriend who dreams of being a real-estate agent." But when a familiar face shows up in town, Vince realizes that no matter how far you think you've run from your past ... it's always close behind you. Over the course of the next unforgettable week, on the run from Spokane to New York's Lower East Side, Vince Camden will negotiate a maze of obsessive cops, eager politicians, and emerging mobsters, only to find that redemption might just exist in - of all places - a voting booth.

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Editorial Reviews

Maureen Corrigan
Two stream-of-consciousness riffs at the center of the novel even take readers into the minds, respectively tortured and serene, of Carter and Reagan. The excruciatingly breathless climax of this novel pits the claims of civic responsibility against those of self-preservation as Vince insists on exercising his voting rights in the face of almost certain oblivion. In its coarse, violent and very funny way, Citizen Vince is an affecting testament to American faith in the common man as well as to the resilient possibilities of the crime novel.
— The Washington Post
Janet Malsin
… Mr. Walter's voice is too entertaining to turn flat. For readers who appreciate wry precision and expert timing, it may be enough to know that Citizen Vince arrives with sky-high praise from both Ken Bruen and Richard Russo, with whom Mr. Walters shares these qualities. For others, the book's fusion of humor, crime and politics may be recommendation enough.
— The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
A petty thief bucks one system to join another. Notching his first felony at 15, Marty Hagen, the quintessential New York City street kid, has a rap sheet to be reckoned with by the time he's 36. Not that there's anything really lurid on it-certainly nothing violent-it's just nonstop. And then suddenly, almost by accident, Marty becomes a person of interest to the feds, a circumstance that leads to a new name, a new location, and the makings of a new life. Farewell Marty, hail Vince (Camden), reborn, as it were, courtesy of the Witness Protection Program. Though at first Spokane, Washington, rattles his urban sensibilities ("Everyone drives everywhere, even the ladies"), Vince soon grows fond. He gets to like the quirkiness, discovers that the measured pace suits him after all, allowing time for an interest in things that would once have seemed exotic: presidential politics, for instance. The time is 1980, eight days short of the election between Reagan and Carter, and Vince plans to do what he's never done before: vote. Moreover, there are women in his life, two of them, actually, good women in their differing ways. He even likes the kooky job the feds have found for him, donut maker-manager of the estimable Donut Make you Hungry establishment. Then, after two equable years, enter Ray (Sticks) Scatieri, hit-man extraordinaire, emissary from the mob, with an overdue bill in his bloodied hands. Well, exactly who sent him? Why now? Is there a way Vince can square himself in time to render the contract null and void? The answers are admirably unpredictable. This, in fact, is a story full of wonderful small surprises-among them Vince's way of finally achieving citizenhood. Dispassionate andcompassionate by turns, and always engrossing. Walter's best by far (Land of the Blind, 2003, etc.).
Sunday Telegraph
“A splendidly entertaining, thoughtful book ... Jess Walter continues to impress.”
Chicago Tribune
“(An) immensely entertaining crime thriller and wry social commentary.”
Seattle Times
“Rich in robust characters ad wry dialogue, with agile prose, a big heart and a finely tuned plot.”
No Source
1st Place, General Trade-Jacket, New York Book Show

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)

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Citizen Vince 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put this one down. Delightfully quirky characters, thought- provoking ramblings, ingenious plot. Must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Citizen Vince is a great tale of a fairly young male with a sturdy background in crime. Marty who now goes by the name of Vince is in a witness protection program and is being hunted by an old foe. This story crime, sex, money and politics will surely keep the reader attached for hours upon hours.
harstan More than 1 year ago
New Yorker Marty Hagen earned his first merit badge at fifteen years old; over two decades later his résumé is filled with felonies, convictions and other activity although his rap sheet contains no violent incidents. The Feds become aware of Marty as a valuable tool. They enroll him in the witness protection program under the name Vince Camden residing in Spokane, Washington working as a manager at Donut Make You Hungry. The adjustment is initially a killer for the Manhattan street guy, but soon finds he need not rush to survive. He breaks family tradition registering to vote in the upcoming Reagan Carter presidential race. --- However after two calm years on the West Coast, the easterner¿s serene life shatters when hit man Ray (Sticks) Scatieri arrives to provide mob payback. Marty actually likes his lifestyle and wants to keep living it for decades to come. He need to figure out how to cancel the contract when Sticks is the best at completing his mission and has a reputation to maintain. --- Readers will appreciate the metamorphoses of small time crook Vince into CITIZEN VINCE who finds he likes himself when he is productive in a positive way. Vince¿s path to solid citizenship is not easy with tiny setbacks that could avalanche into a throwback to the felonious Vince if he falls through the donut hole back to the ¿easy¿ life. Jess Walter writes a fabulous character study that makes the case that to change behavior conditions must change also (Einstein¿s definition of insanity comes to mind). CITIZEN VINCE is a terrific insightful tale that subtly makes a societal case on the significance of the environment on the person.--- Harriet Klausner
IJB More than 1 year ago
Genius dialogue and outright gripping characters make Citizen Vince hard to put down. But the plot being so intriguing midway through leaves just hoping Walter can pull it off. The ending proves inconsistent and frankly a letdown to a book that look so promising until the final ten pages. Yet still a must read to be read slowly and openly to fully digest everything Walter conveys .
Lance_Charnes More than 1 year ago
Repeat this phrase: "literary gangster novel." Sounds unlikely, doesn't it? Something like "good airline service" or "endearing political ad." Yet that's what Jess Walter has pulled off here: the tale of a minor hood's struggle toward grace through atonement, poker and voting. Vince Camden -- the titular mook -- is the sort of character who either gets clipped in the first reel of your typical mafia film, or ends up being the pawn of (or Judas to) the Big Boss. Yet in Citizen Vince, he's the star. When we first meet him, he's busy flushing away his clean start as an inmate of the Witness Protection program, associating with fellow ex-felons and running his two-bit scams on the side. But when redemption arrives in the form of his voter registration card, he spends the next week wrestling with his internal and external demons to become worthy of his new life. The narrator's (third-person present) voice carries just the right tone of weariness. The hard-case dialog has the snap of truthiness; real wiseguys probably aren't quite this together, but it sounds right in a way we've come to expect from countless films and TV shows. The inside of Vince's head -- where we spend a great deal of time -- sounds like it ought to; none of the grand mal philosophizing that can come with literary aspirations, but rather the small, homely realizations of a man with little formal education and a lot of street learning. And while the ultimate point of this is the journey of a man’s soul, there’s murder, mayhem, and deadly betrayal -- action you won’t find in The Corrections. My quibbles are few. A subplot involving a rookie police detective isn’t securely fastened to the main story and wanders off its own path. While the setting is the week leading up to the 1980 Presidential election, the action and characters seem unmoored from the period; move the story to 1960 or 1992 and not much would need to change. The general mood of gloom and decay that I remember from that time is largely missing here. A mercifully brief detour into the minds of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, while persuasive, drops from the sky unannounced and unneeded and makes mostly for a what-the-frack? moment. Citizen Vince is one of those books that sounds like it ought not to work, but it does. It’s a short, fast read that challenges preconceived notions on both sides. For genre fans, it shows that “literary” can have a plot and action and not consist only of five hundred pages of navel-gazing. For those who wouldn’t consider reading a crime novel unless it’s in its original Hungarian, Walters shows a main character can have bigger problems than his wife sleeping with his therapist and still concern himself with his destiny and salvation.
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Maricaibo More than 1 year ago
First rate. Looking forward to reading more. I will never think of Spokane in the same way. A real page turner (read it in one sitting) filled with great prose.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Citizen Vince is a terrific read - fast-paced and clever. I've already bought The Zero and can't wait to immerse myself in more of Jess Walter's brilliant writing..... Vince Camden is a petty thief from New York who, thanks to witness protection, is able to start life anew in Spokane, Washington. Only he doesn't really begin again, choosing to resume his old scams and hang out with shady characters. It isn't until he receives a voter registration card that he starts contemplating what it would mean to be a real citizen. Then when Vince comes face-to-face with his past, in the form of a hit man who plans to kill him, he's forced to make choices that will define his character and determine his future. Interwoven into the story is the 1980 presidential election, the candidates' thoughts, and Vince's right to vote for the first time - metaphors for his freedom to choose who he wants to be.... The characters are beautifully drawn, especially Vince who embarks on a dangerous journey in order to settle the debts of his past, anticipating the normal life he could have if he survives. Until now, he's lived like a ghost, flawed and afraid, but he wants something more. In this way, he is like Beth. Their dreams are almost heart-breaking in their simplicity, but they represent hope..... Citizen Vince is a provocative story of redemption that is sometimes sad and often funny. The witty dialogue, the author's distinctive voice, and the three-dimensional characters make this a more than enjoyable read. Add Walter's slick prose and you have a fantastic read. What it boils down is this: everyone makes choices in their life that ultimately shape who they are. Vince, who is essentially a decent guy, is at a crossroads where he can either run or fight. Then there's the third choice, which is to do the right thing. Like President Carter in the story, as well as the rookie detective Dupree, Vince Camden can choose to 'walk in his integrity'.