– The Wheelman –
Though not his first book, that would be Secret Dead Men, The Wheelman was the first book of Duane Swierczynski’s that I read. Set in Swierczynski’s hometown of Philadelphia, The Wheelman tells the bloody tale of what happens when the bank job title character Lennon is serving as the getaway driver for goes wrong. Seriously wrong. Like betrayed, beaten, and left for dead kind of wrong.
But as his former partners and enemies will all come to regret, Lennon wasn’t killed. Pissed off and seriously motivated, he cuts a deadly path through dirty cops, multinational mobsters, and assorted thugs who have the misfortune to cross him on his quest to find out who set him up. Oh, did I mention Lennon is a mute? Yeah, our narrator can’t talk, but that’s ok because his actions speak volumes.
Swierczynski keeps both Lennon and the reader off balance with double-crosses and misdirection galore, and the violence is intense and rather indiscriminate (don’t get too attached to anyone). The Wheelman is the dictionary definition of fast-paced action. Besides being thoroughly entertained, I came away with the impression that this Swierczynski fellow wrote like the love child of Ken Bruen and Charlie Huston… so, yeah, I was hooked.
The Wheelman is available from Minotaur Books (ISBN: 978-0312343781)
– Expiration Date –
Having just lost his job as a journalist, Mickey Wade moves back to his old neighborhood in Philly and crashes at his grandfather’s apartment. Following a particularly bad bender Wade takes some old aspirin he finds in the medicine cabinet, hoping to sleep it off and wake up only slightly worse for wear.
That might have worked if they had been aspirin, but they were something else entirely and Mickey wakes up to find himself back in 1972. He quickly figures out how to manipulate the pills to travel back and forth, and soon finds himself dealing with bigger problems than unemployment and a hangover…in both eras.
Right from the beginning of Expiration Date you know you’re in for something very different:
Time’s arrow only seems to fly straight when you’re alive. Dead is something else. Once you cross that invisible line, you see things how they really are. You see that every moment seems to happen at once. Which makes telling this story – or the most important parts of it, anyway – difficult.
The time traveling mash-up of sci-fi and noir that is the backbone of Expiration Date could have been a disaster in the wrong hands. Thankfully Swierczynski’s are plenty big, plenty capable, and he pulls off a masterful down the rabbit hole adventure that is more than deserving of the Edgar and Anthony Award nominations it garnered.
Expiration Date is available from Minotaur Books (ISBN: 978-0312363406), and includes artwork by comic illustrator Laurence Campbell (Wolverine, Punisher).
– Level 26: Dark Origins –
The FBI has designated 25 levels of depravity to rate killers. From the fledgling novices at Level 1 up to the sophisticated, organized sadists at Level 25, all of them have their place on the scale. All except one, that is. There is one killer on the loose that has proven to be both forensic-proof and beyond anything the FBI has seen before. Meet Sqweegel, the first known Level 26 killer.
Level 26: Dark Origins is a truly unique reading experience, in no small part because part of the experience doesn’t involve reading at all. For this grisly crime thriller Swierczynski teamed up with CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker to create a ground-breaking digi-novel. Before it was even released the book was cast as a film, an hour long “cyber-bridge” was filmed and cut into bite-sized pieces, and every few chapters of the book you get a code to go online and watch a small section of the movie.
Fair warning: the combination of Sqweegel that Swierczynski created on the page and that actor/contortionist Daniel Browning Smith brought to life on film will freak you right the hell out. I’m not exaggerating when I say I checked under the bed and in closets – sometimes in broad daylight – for several days after finishing this book.
Coming Tomorrow: A review of Severance Package.