Dia de los Muertos = Day of the Dead

Kent Harrington, Author Dennis McMillan Publications $30 (244p) ISBN 978-0-939767-30-4
Echoes of Jim Thompson, Sam Peckinpah and Casablanca aren't enough to bring the main character to life in this tale set during the Day of the Dead in Tijuana. Part of the problem is that Harrington's (Dark Ride) protagonist, DEA agent Vince Calhoun, creates all his own trouble; when his already-rotten life shatters like a slow-motion pinata, most readers won't care. Another problem is that Calhoun seems a parody of the noir hero: his luck is gone at the dog tracks (and he owes money to everybody); the DEA is after him for smuggling people across the border; his gay partner is in love with him; he has dengue fever; and his old girlfriend--the one who destroyed his past--just stepped off a prison bus and walked back into his life. The day ends with a one-last-throw-of-the-dice smuggling operation, but by this time Calhoun's lack of nobility (nods to Bogart's Rick Blaine notwithstanding) and his cumbersome genre baggage have combined to sap the plot of energy and excitement. Which is too bad, because the novel has a lot going for it, notably a gritty setting, vivid subordinate characters and plenty of hardboiled, tequila-soaked charm. Only the horrible fascination of watching a man destroy himself is missing: Calhoun is a fadeout waiting to happen. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
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