Monday, November 9, 2015

"Citizen Vince" by Jess Walter

Vince Camden works at a donut shop in Spokane, Washington. What the people in Spokane don't know about him is that he is in the witness protection program after testifying against members of the mob. Even with his new identity, he hasn't changed his ways much, running a credit card scam, and gambling.

When he receives a card to say he's registered to vote, it ignites within him a desire to go straight and turn his life around.

However, the arrival in town of Ray throws a spanner in the works. Vince recognises Ray from his days in the mob - and Ray is a well-known hitman. While in town, Ray soon hooks up with Lenny to muscle Vince out of the credit card scam. Vince must go to New York to find out if Ray has been sent to kill him, or whether this was just a coincidence. While there, he sets about righting some of the wrongs from his past.

Vince also winds up in the sights of Det. Alan Dupree after the murder of Doug, another member of his credit card scam.

Set against the backdrop of the 1980 presidential election, Citizen Vince is a highly entertaining hybrid of droll comedy and tough noir crime. You genuinely find yourself on side with Vince as he strives for something better in his life, such as opening his own restaurant and settling down with Beth, his sort-of girlfriend. He sees his right to vote as an indication that his thoughts and beliefs actually matter, and that one vote can make a difference.

Strong characters combine with a plot that delivers some nifty twists.

There were some weaknesses. We get an entire chapter from the view point of one of the presidential candidates. It adds nothing to the central story. Vince himself never reveals who he voted for, because it is largely irrelevant. It's what being able to vote symbolises for Vince that is at the crux of the book, not who he actually votes for. This particular chapter from the candidate is pointless and, frankly, dull.

Alan Dupree's interactions with Det. Donnie Charles are interesting and entertaining, but also pertain little to the central plot. If they were removed from the narrative entirely, it wouldn't make any difference. It was possibly included for length - this one only clocks in at under 300 pages.

Otherwise, it was very refreshing to read something a little different and offbeat, that doesn't throw out the same old cliches. I really enjoyed it.

No comments:

Post a Comment