Wednesday, May 06, 2009


By Jason Starr
Hard Case Crime
Available May 26
253 pages

This is one of the grittiest, most hypnotic novels I’ve ever read. True to classic noir, it introduces the reader to a luckless schmuck with illusions of grandeur and then proceeds to suck him into a bottom-less pit of crime and insanity. Like the gory roadside crash on the highway that compels us to slow down and stare at mutilated figures, once we meet would be actor and bouncer, Tommy Russo, we become his shadow and watch helplessly as his life unravels thread by agonizing thread.

In his early thirties, Russo is a gambling addict and all-around loser who lies to himself about one day hitting the big score at the tracks or getting an acting gig that will instantly catapult him to fame and glory. When he is offered an opportunity to join a small syndicate of men in buying a race horse, Tommy sees it as his one big chance to grab the brass ring of life and become a winner. But to join he’ll have to come up with ten thousand dollars, which he of course doesn’t have.

Using his good looks, Tommy seduces an old girlfriend and steals her jewelry. He pawns the stolen baubles for seed money, believing he can win at the tracks and thus earn his stake in the proposed syndicate. Of course he only ends up losing the money, making the girl suspicious and in the process he becomes even more desperate. Enough to rob the safe in the bar where he is employed by a man who trust him like a son.

Starr’s writing is economic to a fault, sparing little verbiage on anything other than Tommy’s cold, cruel, irrational look at the world. Within the first chapters the reader realizes the guy has no real grasp of reality and is on a one way trip to hell. How that doom befalls him is both ironic and pathetic.

FAKE I.D. is a nasty piece of work and thus a delicious noir experience you will not soon forget. Powerful stuff.


B. C. Bell said...

That car wreck analogy is perfect. I love this kind of stuff even though I know the protagonist (certainly can't call them "the heroes") are going to get it in the end. Allan Guthrie (Who says he loves David Goodis because Guthrie is "a sad bastard.") is another great. Check out "Hard Man." Violent, tragic, and just plain hilarious.

Frank Byrns said...

Got this one in the mail this week. Love the choice of first person narration here, especially for such a deluded lowlife.

Another great Jason Starr book - I'm a big fan.

Ron Fortier said...

Yup, me too, Frank. Starr has quickly developed a solid reputation as a real "noir" writer and this one is a classic in the making. It is just creepy how he gets into the head of the character from page one, so that we know immediately what a loser he is. But the poor sap hasn't got a clue. Brilliant writing.

fakeid said...

Just got this book, haven't read it yet, seems decent from the review though