cover image Juice


R. Wright Campbell. Poseidon Press, $18.45 (270pp) ISBN 978-0-671-66624-8

Armed with a salable blurb from Elmore Leonard, the publisher is touting this as Campbell's ( In La-La Land We Trust ) breakout novel, and that may be true. Written in a terse, cinematic Leonardian style, the book has all the right ingredients. In a crime clean-up headed by an ambitious special prosecutor, L.A. detective ``Panama'' Heath goes out on an illegal limb to help Billy Ray, the feckless husband of Heath's old flame Lisa. Billy is in big trouble with big-time loan shark Puffy Pachoulo, who's planning to move in on the Porsche dealership of the Doohan brothers. Pachoulo is using the ``respectable'' lawyer/wheeler-dealer Al Nadeau to close the trap on the Doohans, while Nadeau's cocaine-addicted wife Helena is having an affair with special prosecutor Fitzsimmons. Pachoulo's humiliation of small-time bookie Benny Checks is almost a gruesome sidebar until Benny's wife turns nemesis in a bloody climax. The gritty milieu and lowdown characters are almost all believably sleazy, and if he isn't as funny as Leonard, Campbell's plot is as snappy and complicated as the master's. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Apr.)