Sunday, April 08, 2012


By Tom Epperson
Forge Books
352 pages

Tom Epperson is a stylist whose writing displays a truly unique sensibility rarely found in the field of modern thrillers before.  He writes about complex people both good and bad, each locked into a personal moral code that propels them to accomplish wonderful feats of heroism or disgusting acts of depravity.  When they collide through various unrelated chains of events the results are scenes of mesmerizing action.

Gina and her son Luke are on the run from her husband’s mob family in New York.  She had been living in the Witness Protection Program, after having testified and helped lock up her sadistic, cruel spouse.  The problem is her father-in-law wants his grandson and ultimately bribes one of the Marshals assigned to protect them.  By a miracle of quick thinking, she and Luke elude the assassin and flee westward ending up on the beaches of Southern California. Here they meet a quiet, likeable stranger named Gray who clearly has a secret past of his own.  All the while the crooked Marshall, a trio of his redneck pals and a pair of deadly Russian hit-men are all converging on them like the hot Santa Anna winds.

Imagine blending Elmore Leonard’s terse, economic prose with the fanciful poetry of a Ray Bradbury and you have “Sailor,” a truly beautifully crafted suspense thriller that plays across the reader’s imagination like the taut bow string of a mournful violin.  None of this comes as a surprise as Epperson also wrote the screenplays to two of finest noir films ever produced; “One False Move” and “The Gift.”  Like those two stories, “Sailor” is peopled by original, believable characters that inhabit a world both familiar and strange.  The tension, the violence and the hope infused in these characters is perfectly etched and by the book’s finale becomes a poignant reading experience you won’t soon forget.

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