Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli

Even if Piccirilli never did another Cold novel (and with the way he ends The Coldest Mile, his sequel to last year’s The Cold Spot, you fucking well hope he’s got another one coming our way), I fucking pray he sets another book in this world that he has created. It is one of the most nerd-boner-inducing places a noir fan can go, where gangs of thieves are called “strings” and they’re always “grifting” and looking to set up another “score” and keeping tabs on other strings through “drops.” Yeah, the players in The Coldest Mile talk like that - no joke. But it’s not in a self-conscious sort of way like something Tarantino or Frank Miller would dream up. It actually feels kind of authentic in a crazy-ass sort of way.

In other words: Piccirilli has some fucking chops.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, letting shit get away from me. I’ve got to tell you just what the fuck you’re dealing with plot-wise if you smartly choose to pick up Pic’s brand-spanking new novel, The Coldest Mile.

The book picks up a few weeks after ending of The Cold Spot with top-notch wheelman Chase signing on with the Langan syndicate for what is apparently more of a chauffeur gig than his usual getaway driver stint. The Langans are a decidedly WASP-y crew in the NYC area that is on the decline. The boss is about to check out and his kids, Jackie and Sherry Langan, are scrambling for the top seat and organizing a move to Chicago where they hope they’ll gain some much-missed respect. Since there’s no score to be had and Chase is more of a string man than a syndicate soldier, he decides to rip off his new employers instead to raise some money before heading off to find his young aunt Kylie and wrest her away from his hard-ass grandfather Jonah.

But Jonah isn’t an easy man to find or, you know, wrest shit away from, and the mob, as all good readers know, doesn’t take betrayal lightly…

So if you don’t know who the fuck Jonah is and what that whole back story is about, fucking read The Cold Spot already. That shit rules and will make your enjoyment of The Coldest Mile increase ten-fucking-fold. The mythology that Piccirilli is creating with this series is what it’s all about anyway and yeah, like any good novel you don’t have to read the predecessor but shit, once you read this one you’re just gonna go back and read the first anyway so fucking do it up right from the start - read The Cold Spot first.

But as good as Spot was, Mile truly ups the ante. In Spot Pic had to get some heavy exposition out of the way for the first half of the novel so that we could really see how much Chase loved Lila and how far he fell once she was murdered, seeing what it would take to actually him to go back to the life. With The Coldest Mile Chase is in the life the whole fucking time, beating ass or racing down the freeway on ever other page. I’m not fucking around when I say that The Coldest Mile runs on equal parts dread and adrenaline for three-hundred some pages.

And this book really brings it with the action, showing that Piccirilli is one of the new masters of the action sequence, on par with the likes of Huston and Swierczynski - no fucking lie, dear reader. His violence hits hard and hits often, making you feel every busted molar and desperate eye gouge. Also, as with the terms and organizations that I mentioned admiring above, even the rules of combat in Piccirilli’s world seem both grittily authentic and classic-film-noir-bat-shit crazy at the same time.

I haven’t ventured much beyond Piccirilli’s very recent foray (ha! I’m a douche!) into straight-up crime/noir, but the guy writes the genre like he’s been doing it since the Gold Medal days. Here’s hoping he keeps running with it for a long-ass time. And if there’s not another Cold book sometime in ’10, the Nerd is gonna be hunting down some motherfuckers, Chase-style. Bank on that.

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