Took A While: Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard, 2007, 9781585679546.
I've been watching a lot of TV and movies on Netflix and Amazon. That means I've been slack on my reading. I placed a hold on this novel after reading a scathing review. I would link to the review in questions except I , of course, cannot find the damn review. The review was withering so I assume Kirkus published it.
Imagine my surprise five minutes ago when I discovered that Snitch Jacket was nominated for an Edgar in 2008. Oh, I suppose you don't have to imagine my surprise when I call tell you: I was mildly surprised. Only "mildly" because I think the book is pretty decent with a bit of a nitwit narrator and some humorous situations.
Benny Bunt is one step above being a alcoholic bum. Benny is a reformed tweaker and has been off meth for a few years. He washed dishes in a Mexican food restaurant, bicycles everywhere, has a shut-in and hypochondriac wife, and spends every night at a Skid Row bar, the Greasy Tuesday, in Costa Mesa, California. The Greasy Tuesay is populated with low level crooks and hard core drinkers.
After getting busted for selling marijuana Benny has been working as a small time confidential informant for the Costa Mesa cops. He idolizes the handsome cop who butters up Benny with compliments. Benny also has a perfect memory. Benny's perfect memory offered him an opportunity to get revenge on some crooked colleagues from his past and he always listens close to the local crime crowd so he can pass on tips to the cops.
One day Gus "Mad Dog" Miller comes in the Greasy Tuesday. Gus is preceded by his massive gut and trailed by his aged dog. Gus promptly declares himself the Vietnam battle buddy of the bar owner's dead father. Gus is a dramatic storyteller and quickly makes friends and admirers among the bar flies. Benny is smitten by Gus's tales of war heroism and U.S. crime.
Things happen. Benny helps Gus out when Gus goes on a big bender. Gus figures Benny is reliable and asks Benny to help with a murder for hire. Benny goes to the cops. Stupidity, incompetence, skullduggery, and petty revenge ensue.
1. Almost everything is told by Benny in a document written for his lawyer.
2. I liked Benny the character. I would avoid Benny the real person. Benny is aware most of his own failings and weaknesses. But, his desire for friendship and respect drive a naivete and a blind acceptance of other people's comments.
3. Benny's writing is florid and can be excessively descriptive. I presume Goffard has Benny trying to show off. Benny is a high school dropout and autodidact. He used to study reference books and encyclopedias.
4. A fair amount of humor. The drunken idiocy at the bar. Gus's insanely exaggerated claims of combat and crime. The cop who loves himself and is always blowing smoke to buck-up Benny and keep him informing.
5. The dust cover says Goffard woked the crime beat for a Florida paper before leaving to work for the Los Angeles Times. I wonder if he had visions of Michael Connelly's career path in his head.
6. Connelly or Connolly? I cannot keep them straight except one of them is Irish.
7. I just looked up Goffard's homepage. The cover of Snitch Jacket shown on his homepage is 10x better than the one in my hand. (I got this copy from Muskego PL.)