Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Dennis Tafoya manages to have his cake and eat the shit out of it too with his debut novel Dope Thief. What starts out at as an ass-kicking noir actioner eventually turns into a thoughtful, honest and Pelecanos-esque (Pelecanish?) search for redemption. The real fucking kicker of it is, dear reader, is that Tafoya is able to pull that shit off in fucking spades.

Dope Thief is the story of Ray, a thirty year old ex-con who rips-and-runs a la Omar Little with his junkie pal Manny. The pair try to keep it light, never killing, and stealing only from small-time players around Pennsylvania who won’t be out for some get back. The beauty of their operation – and what keeps dealers from acting stupid – is that they dress as DEA agents while they rob (echoes of the cult classic blaxploitation flick Across 110th Street). Naturally, the two eventually rip off the wrong drug dealer and bodies happen while mucho dinero is scored. Next thing the boys know there’s a vicious motorcycle club after their stolen money and Manny and Ray’s blood.

First off, let the Nerd say that Tafoya is top-fucking-notch at writing action sequences. The violence in this beast is fucking cinematic as all hell and there are some set-pieces in here that bring to mind Charlie Fucking Huston – no joke, dear reader. There’s a scene where it’s Manny and Ray versus two pissed off bikers that just fucking rocked my shit – almost as hard as the molester house shoot-out in Gone Baby Gone did (the book, not the film, hands-down the best action sequence I’ve ever read).

Now you’re thinking, Silly Nerd, a novel cannot thrive on violence alone. What of the other elements of the text? Well, hoidy-toidy-pretentious-douche reader, here we fucking go:

Naturally, all this extremely well-done violence wouldn’t be worth the paper it was printed on if it weren’t for the reader caring about those that are affected by it, and Tafoya’s hero Ray is one hell of a complex protagonist. He’s smarter and wiser than the career he’s chosen for himself, where the most common retirement options are death or imprisonment. He’s also racked with guilt over a lover who died because of him back in his high school days, the pain of the loss fucking up all his present female relationships. Then his imprisoned father comes back into his life due to the old bastard being diagnosed with a terminal illness. And then there’s the bookstore girl that Ray falls hard for despite worrying that his father’s abuse of his mother means that he himself will be a piece of shit wife-beater…

So yeah, there’s a lot of shit outside of Ray’s crime life that is covered in the novel and that’s what makes the book really fucking sing. We grow to really care about him and become heavily invested in his efforts to leave his lawless days behind him. Thankfully, all that shit is handled with a sobriety that keeps shit from getting too touchy-feely lame on your ass. Like I said up top, dude’s Pelecanistic or whatever the fuck the term should be.

In case you’re just not fucking getting me, dear reader, I’m fucking well saying that you should check this shit out. Dope Thief is emotionally involving and bloody-as-hell to boot. What the fuck more could a crime fan ask for?

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