The first of three Repairman Jack prequels, revealing the past of one of the most popular characters in contemporary dark fantasy: a self-styled "fix-it" man who is no stranger to the macabre or the supernatural, hired by victimized people who have no one else to turn to.
We join Jack a few months after his arrival in New York City. He doesn't own a gun yet, though he's already connected with Abe. Soon he'll meet Julio and the Mikulski brothers. He runs afoul of some Dominicans, winds up at the East Side Marriott the night Meir Kahane is shot, gets on the bad side of some Arabs, starts a hot affair, and disrupts the smuggling of preteen sex slaves. And that's just Book One.
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A Repairman Jack Novel
By F. Paul Wilson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2012 F. Paul Wilson
All rights reserved.
Jack might have reacted differently if he'd seen the punch coming. He might have been able to hold back a little. But he was caught off guard, and what followed shocked everyone. Jack most of all.
No surprise where it came from. Rico had been riding him since the summer, and pushing especially hard today.
The morning had started as usual. Giovanni Pastorelli, boss and owner of Two Paisanos Landscaping, had picked him up at a predesignated subway stop in Brooklyn — Jack lived in Manhattan and trained out — and then picked up the four Dominicans who made up the rest of the crew. The Dominicans all lived together in a crowded apartment in Bushwick but Giovanni refused to drive through there. He made the "wetbacks" — his not-unaffectionate term for them when they weren't around — train to a safer neighborhood.
Jack had arrived in the city in June and came across the Two Paisanos boss in July at a nursery. His landscaping business had started with two paisanos but now had only one, Giovanni, who almost laughed Jack off when he'd asked if he needed an extra hand. He was a twenty-one-year-old who looked younger. But he'd worked with a number of landscapers in high school and college, and ten minutes of talk convinced the boss he'd be taking on experienced help.
But Jack's knowledge of Spanish, rudimentary though it was, clinched the hire. The boss had come over from Sicily with his folks at age eight and had lived in Bath Beach forever. He spoke Italian and English but little Spanish. Jack had taken Spanish in high school and some at Rutgers. The Dominicans who made up the rest of Giovanni's crew spoke next to no English.
Giovanni worked them all like dogs seven days a week but no harder than he worked himself. He liked to say, "You'll get plenty of days off — in the winter." He paid cash, four bucks an hour — twenty cents above minimum wage — with no overtime but also no deductions.
Though a newcomer, Jack quickly became Giovanni's go-to guy. He could understand the Dominicans if they spoke slowly, and was able to relay the boss's work orders to them.
Before Jack, that had been Rico's job. He spoke little English, but enough to act as go-between. He probably felt demoted. Plus, Giovanni loved to talk and would launch long, rambling monologues about wine, women, and Italy at Jack, something never possible with Rico. That had to gall him. He'd been with Giovanni — or jefe, as he called him — for years, then Jack strolls in and becomes right-hand man within weeks of his arrival.
Jack had come to like Giovanni. He was something of a peacock with his pompadour hair and waxed mustache, and could be a harsh taskmaster when they were running late or weather put him behind schedule. But he was unfailingly fair, paying on time and to the dime.
He liked his "wetbacks" and respected how hard they worked. But his old-country values didn't allow much respect for his clients.
"A man who won't work his own land don't deserve it."
Jack had lost count of how many times he'd heard him mutter that as they'd unload the mowers and blowers and weed whackers from the trailer. Giovanni charged jaw-dropping lawn maintenance fees, but people paid him. He had the quality homeowners wanted most in their gardener: He showed up. On top of that, he and his crew did good work.
On this otherwise unremarkable late October day, the Two Paisanos crew was in Forest Hills performing a fall cleanup around a two-story Tudor in the shadow of the West Side Tennis Club stadium. Last month they'd worked at the club itself, planting mums for the fall. His dad was a big tennis fan and Jack remembered seeing the place on TV when the US Open was held here.
Carlos, Juan, and Ramon were happy-go-lucky sorts who loved having a job and money to spend in the midst of a recession. But Rico had a chip on his shoulder. Today he'd started in the moment he got in the truck. Childish stuff. He was seated behind Jack so he began jabbing his knees against Jack's seat back. Jack seethed. The months of bad 'tude and verbal abuse were getting to him. But he did his best to ignore the guy. Rico never seemed to be playing with a full deck anyway, and appeared to be missing more cards than usual today.
When they reached the work site Rico started with the name-calling in Spanish. One thing lacking in his Spanish classes in Rutgers had been vernacular obscenities. But Jack had picked up quite a few since July. Rico was using them all. Usually the comments were directed at Jack, but today Rico had expanded into Jack's ancestry, particularly his parents. With Jack's mother buried less than a year now, the guy was stomping on hallowed ground. But he didn't know that. Jack set his jaw, tamped the fire rising within, and put on his headphones. He started UB40's latest spinning in his Discman. The easy, mid-tempo reggae of Labour of Love II offered a peaceful break from Rico's rants.
Rico must have become royally pissed that he couldn't get a rise. So pissed he hauled off and sucker-punched Jack in the face.
As his headphones went flying and pain exploded in his cheek, Jack felt something snap. Not physically, but mentally, emotionally. A darkness enveloped him. He'd felt it surge up in him before, but never like this. He took martial arts classes but whatever he'd learned was lost in an explosive rush of uncontrollable rage. Usually he fought it, but this time he embraced it. A dark joy filled him as he leaped at Rico with an animal howl.
He pounded his face, feeling his nose snap beneath his knuckles, his lips shred against his teeth. Rico reeled back, and Jack quarter-spun his body as he aimed a kick at his left knee. His boot heel connected with the outside of the knee, caving it inward. Even over the roaring in his ears he could hear the ligaments snap. As Rico went down, Jack stomped on the knee, then kicked him in the ribs, once, twice. As Rico clutched his chest and rolled onto his side, Jack picked up a bowling-ball-size rock from the garden border and raised it to smash his head.
A pair of powerful arms encircled him and wrenched him around. He lost his grip on the rock and it landed on the grass, denting the turf. Giovanni's voice was shouting close behind his left ear.
"Enough! He's down! He's finished! Stop it, for fuck's sake!"
The darkness receded, Jack's vision cleared, and he saw Rico on the ground, his face bloodied, wailing as one arm clutched his ribs and another his knee.
"All right," Jack said, relaxing as he stared in wonder at Rico. "All right."
What just happened?
Maybe five seconds had passed. So little time, so much damage.
Carlos, Juan, and Ramon stood in a semicircle behind Rico, their gazes shifting from Jack to their fallen roommate, their expressions alternating between fear and anger.
Giovanni released him from behind and spun him around. He looked frightened, upset.
"What were you gonna do? Kill him?"
"I don't know. I mean, no. I guess I lost it."
"Lost it! Damn right, you lost it!" He looked over Jack's shoulder at where Rico lay. "Christ, I never seen anything like it." His expression darkened. "You better get outta here."
"You can catch an E or an F back into the city over on Seventy-first Avenue."
Jack felt a new surge of anger, but nothing like before. "Hey, aren't we forgetting something here? I was the guy who was minding his own business when he —"
"I know all about it, but you're still upright and moving. He ain't walking anywhere after the way you fucked up his knee."
"So nothing. I know these guys. They're thick like brothers. You stick around you're gonna find some hedge trimmers chewing up your face. Or a shovel flattening the back of your head. Git. They'll cool down if you're not around."
The heat surged again. He was ready to take on the remaining three right now.
"They'll cool down? What about me?"
"Don't be a jerk. You're outnumbered. Move. I'll call you later."
"Yeah?" Jack said, resisting the urge to take a swing at Giovanni. "Don't bother."
Railing silently at the unfairness of it all, he picked up his Discman and started walking.CHAPTER 2
He got off the F at the 42nd Street stop with his cheek throbbing, his right hand swollen and tender, the knuckles scraped and purpling.
He'd cooled off but was still angry at Giovanni for sending him home. Yeah, well, what else was new? He'd spent most of the year angry at something.
He'd got off a good ways from what he called home these days — a tiny apartment he'd found over a flower shop down in the West Twenties. But he didn't want to go there. He didn't hate the place, but didn't much like it either. Two rooms, good for sleeping and reading and little else. Except maybe watching TV — if he'd had a TV.
He was feeling pretty low, and sitting in that drafty, empty box would only push him lower.
He didn't know what to do with himself. Free time? What was that? Here it was October and he hadn't had a day off since hiring on with Two Paisanos back in July.
He came up to street level in front of Bryant Park, which wasn't much of a park at the moment. The city had rimmed it with boards and a high chain-link fence, closing it for "renovation," whatever that meant. A black guy in a crisp blue Windbreaker and jeans saw him looking and stopped.
"Yeah, used to be a great place to get high."
"So I hear," Jack said.
As he'd heard someone put it: "Home to the three H's — hookers, heroin, and homeless."
"Speakin' of gettin' high, you lookin'?"
Jack glanced at him. Didn't look like a dealer. Had to admit, a little oblivion might ease the pain, but he'd never got into that. Tried weed in Rutgers but found beer more to his liking. Sure as hell tasted better.
A preferred form of oblivion waited farther down the Deuce.
"You have a nice day, then," the guy said and strolled on.
Jack looked around. He saw the back of the New York Public Library. He could walk up to Fifth Avenue, pass between the stone lions guarding the entrance, find a book, and read.
But the siren call of the grindhouses beckoned.
He crossed Sixth and started walking west on 42nd. Halfway along the block the porn shops began to appear. Not exclusively. The XXX peep shows competed with delis and a pizza place and an electronics shop, and of course the ever-present souvenir stores offering the tacky cast-metal Empire State Buildings, World Trade Center towers, and sickly green Statues of Liberty. All made in China.
Dinkins had been mayor for close to a year now and was threatening to clean up the Times Square area. Jack didn't know how he felt about that. Sure, it would be great for tourists who wanted to bring their kids here, but ... West 42nd was the Deuce, and it wouldn't — couldn't be the Deuce without the sleaze factor.
But so far, no cleanup, no change.
The Deuceland uber alles.
He crossed Seventh and entered Grindhouse Row — the stretch of the Deuce between Seventh and Eighth, a cheek-by-jowl parade of glittering movie marquees, each trying to outblaze the next along the length of the block.
A back alley of heaven.
Some of the theaters showed first-run hits from the majors — Goodfellas had come out last month and was still going strong here, as was Arachnophobia — but most offered either reruns or low-budget exploitation films. Choices ranged from Zapped Again and 10 Violent Women to ancient oldies like The Immoral Mr. Teas and The Orgy at Lil's Place. None of those appealed. But then he came to a Sonny Chiba triple feature: The Streetfighter, Return of the Streetfighter, and The Streetfighter's Last Revenge. He'd seen these on videotape but never on the big screen.
He checked the twenty-four-hour timetable on the box office glass and saw he had about twenty minutes before the next feature began. So he walked back up to Times Square and hit the Roy Rogers there for some roast beef — or was that Trigger? — on a bun with extra horse — see? — radish sauce.
He wandered as he ate. The newspaper that gave the square its name was published half a block down 43rd. The Light had offices here too. An Armed Forces recruiting station sat on the downtown end of the triangle formed by Broadway's angled path across Seventh. Not much activity there. With all the saber-rattling since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a few months ago, enlistment was essentially a nonstop ticket to the desert.
Speaking of tickets — a big crowd was gathered around the TKTS booth on the same triangle. With the recession in full swing, discount Broadway tickets seemed in greater demand than ever. Cats and Les Mis were still going strong, and The Phantom was somewhere down one of these side streets. Jack hadn't seen any of them, and had no desire to. Well, The Phantom might be okay if it weren't a musical.
A pang stole through his chest as he remembered how his mother would buy all the Broadway soundtracks as soon as they'd come out. Broadway was the Muzak of his childhood. That had been one thing he hadn't missed when he'd moved out to live at school.
He shook his head. Still couldn't believe she was gone.
He tucked the memories away and covered the still-open wound. Yeah, he really needed an afternoon of chop-socky.
Might even stay and see the trilogy a second time.CHAPTER 3
Vinny Donato stood back and let Tommy do the talking. Tommy Totaro loved to talk. He was known as "Tommy Ten-thumbs" because he had the goddamnedest thickest, shortest fingers anyone had ever seen. Like little Genoa salamis ... like, well, like eight extra thumbs. But these days he should have been known as "Tommy the Snorter," on account of how he liked the powder. And once he had a snootful, he became "Tommy the Talker" and never shut up.
Vinny preferred eating to talking. And the only white powder he liked was the sugar on his zeppoles. He pulled one from a grease-stained sack from his favorite bakery in Bensonhurst and popped it into his mouth. He offered the sack to Aldo D'Amico standing next to him, but Aldo shook his head and took a drag on his Camel instead. That was why he was so skinny — he preferred smoking to eating. Anyways, he only had eyes for Tommy and the guy seated beside him.
Vinny almost felt sorry for Harry Detrick. Almost. Some guys never learn.
"So Harry," Tommy was saying, waving and wiggling those salamis in the air. His left nostril was rimmed with white. "You and me we got this ... this connection, y'know. It's a very complex thing. It's cosmic, it's karmic, it's ... money. It binds us. It flows between us like ... like love. I love people and you love the ponies but you can't love the ponies the way you'd like to love them without money, and so money has flowed between us to facilitate that love. But lately, Harry, the love has been flowing only one way, and that hurts me." He placed a hand over his heart, or at least where it was supposed to be. "It hurts me in here, and it hurts me deeply."
Harry Detrick squirmed in his wrinkled suit. Vinny guessed he was about forty, maybe five years older than Tommy; no guessing about him being overweight — his gut was as big as Vinny's. His comb-over had got messed up when Vinny and Aldo dragged him into this West Side garage; its sweat-soaked strands were plastered down every which way, exposing his pink scalp.
His lower lip trembled. "Look, Tommy, I can —"
Tommy grabbed his wrist, almost gently. "Shh, my brother. The love not only connects us, it binds. But that's not all that binds us. Our karmas are intertwined, and binding us as well. And yet, with all that, there's still more that binds us."
The click of the handcuff closing around Harry's right wrist echoed off the bare concrete walls.
Harry jumped. "What —?"
Here we go with the cuffs again, Vinny thought.
The cuffs were part of Tommy's act. The coke he used before he braced losers brought out not only his inner blabbermouth but his inner drama queen as well. Pretty soon the little black book would appear.
"Hush now," Tommy said softly as he clicked the other half of the pair around his own left wrist. "We now have a more tangible bond, one that will remain in place until I feel a little of that love reversing its course and flowing toward me."
Harry got this panicky look and started twisting in his chair, pushing at the cuff as if he was going to slip out of it. Whimpering, he jumped up from the chair and began shaking his arm which, of course, shook Tommy's arm.
Vinny knew what was coming next. Because Tommy didn't like the customers shaking his arm.
Tommy gave him the look. "Vinny?"
Vinny swallowed his zeppole and reached into his jacket pocket. The Taser was all charged and ready to go. He whipped it out, jammed it against Harry's upper arm, and hit the button. Harry stiffened, then dropped to the floor where he did a little twitching. Vinny had hit him with a short zap. By the time he'd pocketed the Taser and put down his donuts, Harry was quiet and limp, breathing hard, eyes staring.
Excerpted from Cold City by F. Paul Wilson. Copyright © 2012 F. Paul Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Secret History of the World,
Also by F. Paul Wilson,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sigh. I adore Repairman Jack and, along with all his other fans, I hate that his story has come to an end. Sort of. Being a kind man, F. Paul Wilson took pity after the final story, Nightworld, and has a three-part prequel for us telling how Repairman Jack got to be…well, Repairman Jack. Cold City is the first of that trilogy. I’ve “known” Jack for years, since I first discovered The Tomb along about 1996. That book actually came out in 1984 but I was behind the times. (My introduction to Mr. Wilson‘s work was The Keep, first in another series which also includes The Tomb, but don’t let me confuse you.) The Repairman Jack series relies heavily on the supernatural and that is what sets Cold City apart. This book is essentially a straight crime novel, something new and different for Jack fans, and it works beautifully. Jack is a young man who has just dropped out of college and headed to Manhattan where he plans to lose himself, to become invisible, and he manages to do so surprisingly well. Unfortunately, under-the-table jobs that pay decently are hard to come by so, when he loses the one he had, he finds himself at loose ends. Agreeing to drive trucks full of contraband cigarettes starts him off on a path of collision with a variety of less-than-stellar factions and the fun begins. And fun it is amongst all the bad stuff that can happen in a crime novel. We see Jack becoming a man who wants to fix things for other people, a trait that will be at his core for years to come. Jack appeals to that small part of so many readers who revel just a little in retribution and vigilante justice. He’s the one who takes care of things when other people are vulnerable and we love him for this. Getting to watch Jack grow into this man is not only entertaining; Cold City takes us on the beginning of a fascinating journey. I envy all the new readers who will find Repairman Jack for the first time but this is an excellent place to begin and you’ll have lots of books to enjoy after this one. P.S. I had the good fortune to meet Paul Wilson when he agreed to do a signing at our bookstore, Creatures ‘n Crooks Bookshoppe, on Black Friday 2001 (I think I’ve got the year right). I found that he is not only a really good writer—he’s also a very nice person. I really appreciate it when those two elements come together, don’t you?
This is a hard book to rate. Yes, it's a fine chunk of Wilson writing and plotting adventures of our favorite vigilante, Repairman Jack. However, be warned that it is the first book in a trilogy in the same sense as The Fellowship of the Ring, to wit it is not a self-contained novel but just a part of a larger novel which it was convenient to publish in three parts. There are half a dozen storylines initiated here, and none of them is satisfactorily resolved. I presume they will be in the next couple volumes and that I will rate the whole experience with five stars, but I must withhold a star from this beginning because it is missing a conclusion.
If you are a RJ fan, you have wondered how his close associations were built to be so solid and dedicated. This book will be the beginning of understanding all of RJ's relationships. Not Gia yet, but Abe and Julio and the scary brothers who back him up over the years. It gives you a beginning of understand how our beloved hero got to where he ended with the last RJ book. The young adult books showed you the young man who grew into Jack, this book gives you Jack in the beginning. I loved every page, but I always do with F. Paul Wilson. The bad guys were truly disgusting and their troubles caused by Jack were wonderful to read, but even there, the seeds are showing of future troubles. You never go wrong with Repairman Jack and this is no exception. I don't know what I'll do when the last prequel is done, I'm hoping for a new great book by Wilson to lighten my sadness at losing Jack.
This is the start to Repairman Jack. He is a 21 year old that has just moved to New York after dropping out of college. He lives off the grid and is just getting into the business. You can see how Jack is stumbling into his calling and just starting to use the black rages. I have yet to start the Repairman Jack series although I do have the first book. It was recommended that I start with these first so I have a foundation for Jack. I fell in love with him. He’s tough, no nonsense, and takes care of business. I got sucked into the story and was up late trying to finish it. I can’t wait to see where Jack goes from here but I’m glad that I started with these books before getting into the Repairman Jack series. I can’t wait to get started on Dark City. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Sammy Beware of spoilers! This is my first book in the Repairman Jack series, I was completely caught off guard because in the synopsis it says ” contemporary dark fantasy” and in the book there were only a couple of times that even gave a tiny hint at anything out of the ordinary, with the darkness overtaking Jack. Other than that this story was more like a crime drama/suspense/thriller. I have read The Keep, which was a dark fantasy horror/thriller novel. But, am clearly unsure why “dark fantasy” was added in the description of this particular book. There were a lot of threads in this story, so if a person doesn’t care for one, they can find something else to pull them into the story. At times it was difficult to keep all the characters straight and which faction they belonged to. Even with all the things going on, it was very impressive how the author overlapped them in interesting round about ways. The story is written about the 1990′s and has many prejudices and racial slurs written in the book, at times it made me extremely uncomfortable, especially with how things are in the world today. It did make sense within the story because that is how a person would have spoken and no one would have thought anything about it back then. My favorite quote: “There are certain things I will not abide in my sight“ How great would it be if we all lived like that, oh not with a baseball bat lol , but making sure when things are wrong we do something. I really enjoyed learning about guns, the difference between a pistol and a handgun. Loved that the author used the word nomenclature more than once and then put it in a fabulous sentence: “Hey, you’re the self-proclaimed nomenclature nerd.” And of course learning how use the words schlemiel and schlimazel? Wonderful! I found Jack to be very naive and yet insightful an interesting combination, even though it was super difficult to buy that it took him until page 234 to figure out about Abe and his gun selling, perhaps because he was family of sorts??? Later in the book when Abe says to Jack that he is like a chameleon it was a perfect way to describe Jack, because that’s how he came across in this story being able to fit in, in all different circumstance. Overall I really liked this story and all the threads, what really brought down the rating was how it ended, or should I say not ended. Virtually nothing was resolved in this book, it left the reader hanging. Yes, I understood it was a trilogy, but something more could have been finished. I will read the rest of this series after all three books are out, clearly I don’t like to be left dangling from a cliff. I usually will not continue reading a story that ends in that way, but this story is well written and has a lot going for it and I want to find out what happens. I would recommend this book for young adults as well as adults who enjoyed the The Sopranos, Criminal Minds and Numbers etc…, and obviously fans of the Repairman Jack series. This review and more at openbooksociety dot com
Sorry - not for me. I never put a book down unfinished - almost did with this one.
Bur t the Jack characterr is just a jackass. Can't like a bookwhen I despise the protagonist. The idiots who compare him to Jack Reacher need to learn how to read.