This vastly entertaining debut novel, with a colorful cast of game-playing slackers and stressed-out mobsters, reads like an homage to Elmore Leonard. Bob spends most of his work time at United Pathology surfing the Internet until the day he is required to process a severed arm. It sports a lascivious tattoo featuring a woman so beautiful that Bob is entirely smitten. The arm belongs to Amado, an enforcer for the L.A. Mexican Mafia who had a serious accident at the scene of a murder. And he most certainly does not want his fingerprints to connect him to the crime. Bob is kidnapped en route to delivering the arm to an organ center, and readily agrees to deliver someone else's arm if he can spend the night with the model for Amado's tattoo. Part of the antic fun here is the way Smith revels in overthrowing stereotypes: a street detective with a jones for fine wine; a mobster who ends up writing scripts for telenovelas; a a Gen-Xer who becomes a major player in the Mexican Mob. A wildly imaginative comic novel.
Scattered body parts, a masturbation coach, the Los Angeles Mexican mafia and the work of Frieda Kahlo are spun into a frenetic froth in this gritty, entertaining black comedy. Bob, a slacker working at United Pathology in L.A. is roused from Tetris-induced inertia by the arrival on his desk of a severed arm bearing the distinctive tattoo of a naked woman. Ruthless Mexican mobster Esteban has also learned of the missing limb; he knows it belongs to his associate Amado and will tie him to the recent murder of a mob informant. As Bob ferries the arm to a forensic facility, he is violently waylaid by Esteban and his henchmen. Instead of panicking, Bob - weary of his dull life and recently separated from his sex therapist girlfriend Maura - finds himself strangely enticed by "the glamorous aspect of the criminal life." He becomes "Roberto" and strikes a deal with Esteban to fool the authorities by delivering a different limb to the police in exchange for one night with Felicia, the seductive woman supposedly pictured on Amado's tattoo. But the replacement arm ends up being chopped from one of Maura's clients, linking everyone together. Meanwhile, Maura finds unexpected romance with a detective and Bob's liaison with Felicia turns into true love. Pace and plotting are all in this Pulp Fiction-esque tale, and Smith amply proves he knows how to get the adrenaline pumping. Fans of hiply skewed jackhammer action will appreciate this debut.
Mark Haskell Smith's energetic thriller is an ode to the hard-boiled Los Angeles of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy spun out in brighter-than-life Starburst colors: "A city where roses and cacti grew side by side and bright orange-and-purple birds of paradise sprang up out of cracks in the sidewalk." Across this Day-Glo wonderland, Smith stretches an unlikely cast (and an even more unlikely plot), starting with Bob, a lanky dude who works in a pathology lab, and his girlfriend, Maura, a masturbation therapist. When a severed arm shows up at the lab, Bob is immediately taken by the bodacious babe tattooed on it; it's as if he's transformed into a slacker Petrarch and she's his mythic, ink-on-flesh Laura. The arm's owner turns out to be a foot soldier in a Mexican American mob, and Bob, of course, gets mixed up with these quarrelsome hoodlums. In fact, he ditches Maura to pursue his criminal destiny as "Roberto" (and to pursue the girl in the tattoo), while Maura hooks up with the LAPD detective assigned to the severed-arm case. And this, really, is only the half of it.
Like its bold palette, Moist is aggressively over the top, yet each bizarre turn is as stubbornly logical as it is wonderfully impossible. And it's a small, precious miracle that this L.A. story boldly surges ahead for more than 200 pages before anyone even mentions a screenplay. No wonder Bob -- Roberto -- is so psyched to live in Smith's "city of the future, hope of the world."
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Anne McCarty Braden, a white Southerner, became famous in May 1954 for helping an African American couple buy a home in an all-white suburban neighborhood. She and her husband, Carl, believed that all people had a right to live wherever they wanted, regardless of the color of their skin, but others in the neighborhood violently disagreed. The African American couple had to endure cross burnings, rocks through their windows, and, finally, dynamite that blew apart half of their house. Anne and her husband, meanwhile, were labeled Communists and charged with sedition; nevertheless, their act of courage represented a lifelong dedication to social justice activism. (Anne was later praised in Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail.") Fosl (Women for All Seasons) worked with Anne Braden on this "oral history-biography" for more than a decade, although Braden confesses in a 2002 interview that "this book would have been very different if we'd written it together"; nevertheless, Fosl conveys the bravery and uncompromising convictions that made Anne Braden an important figure in the 20th-century labor and Civil Rights movements. Suitable for academic libraries and large public libraries.-Amy Strong, South Portland, ME Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.