Thursday, August 28, 2008

THE MAX by Ken Bruen & Jason Starr

The demented duo have completely lost their minds.

The third in their Max & Angela trilogy for Hard Case Crime is undoubtedly Ken Bruen and Jason Starr's most gleefully insane and self-refefential book to date. The Max is a prison novel, travelogue, revenge story, struggling writer tale, and sly tribute to their literary friends all in one book. Also, like Slide and Bust, it is sick, violent, nihilistic, funny, and just plain fun.

The book starts out with the increasingly deluded and stupid Max Fisher adjusting to prison life in Attica after having been convicted of numerous charges in Slide. After his crack high wears off, Max is initially scared to death, the promise of ass-rape is thick in the air, but then word gets out about the dick removal Max was (barely) party to in Slide and suddenly he is a prison legend with everything at his disposal. To inflate his hilarious ego even more, a struggling "cozy to middle-boiled" writer named Paula (whose boobs are up to Max's high standards) has decided to become the next Anne Rule, figuring Max's story is her ticket to the big bucks.

Meanwhile, Angela has been looking for love in Greece, where she eventually comes upon a self-styled playboy named Sebastian, a trust-fund Brit Boy who bears a stiking resemblance to Lee Child. The two end up involved in the murder of Angela's Greek landlord and Sebastian makes a break for it, finding Angela's murderous ways a bit too much for him. From there Angela ends up in a sexy Greek prison full of hot lesbians and Sebastian is pursued by the landlord's revenge-minded cousin.

Needless to say, through hyper-fatalistic-super-noir coincidences, eventually all these characters will converge in Attica for a bloody, disgusting finale where even I was surprised who was left dead and who lived to fuck up another day.

It should be said that this book is for strictly the hardcore. I don't mean that simply in the sense that the reader should enjoy sex, violence, and four-letter words (though that certainly helps), but in that the reader should have a fair amount of knowledge about present day crime writers. There are countless references to Bruen and Starr's colleagues and their books, even a reference to the world's greatest bookstore: Richard Katz's Mystery One in Milwaukee. That being said, most of the discussion is in reference to the sexiness of both Lee Child and Laura Lippman.

But, hell, why even review this book? If you could handle Bust and Slide, you probably already have your greasy mitts around The Max. Like the two books previous, The Max is what happens when you let two of the most talented and exciting writers in noir let loose and have a whole lot of sick nasty fun together on the page.

Thankfully, Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime are crazy enough to publish their efforts.

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