In the Hat

Dannie Martin, Author
Dannie Martin, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-684-83335-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 304 pages - 978-0-671-02404-8
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Powerful, controlled writing and originality of thought about criminal behavior marked Martin's collection of prison prose (Committing Journalism) and his debut novel, The Dishwasher (1995). Both qualities flourish in this engrossing story about honor and loyalty among pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and thieves. A decent cop--Martin Torres, from The Dishwasher--has a minor role, but the major players in Martin's world have criminal agendas. On the outskirts of Fresno, Calif., Vernon Coy raises fighting cocks and lives on the earnings of two hard-working hookers, his wife and the girlfriend of his brother Weldon, who is finishing a long stretch in Soledad for armed robbery. Vernon has never been in prison, but he has killed two men, including his mean stepfather. Weldon, who is expert at ""working the corners,"" maintaining prison relationships to minimize violence, learns that Vernon's name has been put ""in the hat,"" meaning that a tough prison gang has put out a contract on him as a suspected snitch. How the Coy brothers and their resourceful women, aided by a memorable old con called The Stepper, defend themselves is the meat of Martin's dementedly logical story. The sauce is the way he can quickly make everything from cockfighting to criminal values understandable if not acceptable. An unexpected bonus is the deadpan humor of his unadorned writing style. This is a treat. (Sept.)
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