Dark Ride

Kent Harrington, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13955-1
Herky-jerky plotting and the habit of signaling his intentions tarnish Harrington's otherwise impressive first novel, a hard-boiled crime yarn in the manner of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain. Jimmy Rogers, in his early 30s, is close to washed up: a former college gridiron god and favorite son of a small Northern California town, he's been reduced to running insurance scams on drooling old folks. He blames his bum luck on his powerful father, the recently deceased ``Colonel,'' who, humiliated by Jimmy's dalliances, cut him out of the will. Jimmy still manages to get by on his father's lingering reputation, but his favorite tonic for a numbing existence is his sado-masochistic, amphetamine-addled relationship with his boss's wife. Eve Stack loves money and sex, in that order, and it's her idea for Jimmy to kill her husband, Phil, for his fortune. What follows is a murderous farce, complicated by the appearance of the victim's brother, Nigel, an ex-con who has figured out the twisted lovebirds' crime and plans to take advantage of it. Hatching scheme after scheme to extricate himself from Nigel's psychosexual tyranny, Jimmy transforms into a killing machine, all the while excused from his bloody transgressions by an old-boy network that still lionizes his vanished promise. Throughout, Harrington, a stylish writer, displays a refreshing contempt for Jimmy's dim-wittedness and his inability to separate the mixed messages coming from his head and his crotch. Readers who like their humor black and their action noir should enjoy this promising debut. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/29/1996
Release date: 02/01/1996
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