Friday, February 13, 2009

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

You kind of want to hate the shit out of Josh Bazell.

Dude’s a goddamn doctor and a badass crime novelist with a debut to beat the fucking band? If I were the envious type (and I am), I would hate the holy hell out of the man.

But I can’t. Beat the Reaper kicks too much ass to be petty about it.

I mean, this thing is just so fucking aggressive in its badassery that you can’t help but take notice. You know it’s hardcore shit from the very first sentence:

“So I’m on my way to work and I stop to watch a pigeon fight a rat in the snow, and some fuckhead tries to mug me!”

That awesomeness right there precedes a fight where our hero, Dr. Peter Brown of Manhattan Catholic, disarms the mugger, snapping the guy’s arm like a twig and forever turning the poor bastard’s nose into a mere memory.

It’s obvious that Dr. Ross Peter Brown ain’t.

In fact, his real name is Pietro Brnwa and he was a vicious hit man for the mafia before he went into witness protection and became a doctor. If you think that all that shit’s behind him, you don’t read much.

There are two stories going forward in Beat the Reaper and they’re told in alternating chapters. The primary one is that of a hectic day at Manhattan Catholic where Brown comes across a possible epidemic in his ward and also is made by an ailing patient with mob ties (You better believe some crazy motherfucking mob dudes show up on his ward toot-fucking-sweet!). The alternate chapters fill you in on Brown’s past, how he became a hit man, how he ended up a doctor - all the juicy back story shit.

You’d think that the lengthy back story would get in the way of the Duane Swierczynski- style-ticking-clock plot but you’re dead-fucking-wrong, dear ridiculously-skeptical-reader. Bazell is such a natural at pace that he keeps you riveted through it all. It’s like - Tired of the medical drama shit? Then here comes some crazy mob stuff in the next back story chapter. - and so forth.

But the real reason to pony up the bucks for this beast is Brown/Brnwa/”Bearclaw” himself. He’s a killing machine who looks like a dumb brute but is as actually as sharp as they come. Not only does he tell a hell of story and do some badass shit, he also informs. Yes, dear reader, there are crazy facts up the ass in Beat the Reaper. Shit about anatomy, healthcare, the holocaust, Romanian politics, mafia history - it’s all here, often related by way of footnotes.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re all, “If I want to fuck around with footnotes I’d take another crack Infinite Jest, thank you very much.” Again, you’re wrong, dear reader. These are footnotes like your po-mo lit 232 class professor has never fucking encountered. They are hilarious and informative and fucking disturbing (in other words, you won’t skip over them like you did with your American History text.)

But I have to admit: the biggest draw here is the last fifty pages or so. There is some violence in here that I just want to fucking scream about from the rooftops, a certain weapon that is so fucking ingenious that I tell random people that I know for sure will never read the book just because it blows my mind so fucking much!

It’s turned me into the worst kind of fan boy, into that guy, the guy-who-keeps-talking-to-you-about-a-movie-you-haven’t-seen-nor-do-you-want-to version of that guy. But seriously, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you come to it. It’s taking me a lot of will-power right now not to type it - I swear it’s that fucking awesome (not to build it up or anything…).

So don’t hate on Bazell. Show the dude and his kick-ass debut some love. So what if he’s a doctor and an exciting new noir novelist? As Dirk Diggler said, “Jealousy will get you nowhere.” I mean, he may save lives or whatever, but he also sure as shit is willing to warp some fucking minds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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