Thursday, March 19, 2009

Catching Up #24: Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard

Snitch Jacket will undoubtedly make you want to punch Christopher Goffard in the balls.

Shit, it's the dude's first novel and he's just got ideas to burn. And he does, over and over. He just tosses off ideas on page after page, usually through dialogue but sometimes through description, tosses the fuckers out on the scrap heap like they're nothing.

And these are ideas to base entire books around, little nuggets of information, pieces of lore, small scams and tall tales that are just fucking gold, and he just uses them to pass the time, to build characters, not as the basis for a plot. Guy's a show-off and frankly I want to punch him in the balls and then give him a sharp kick to the sternum while he's down.

But long ago I made a promise to my sensei only to use my ball-punching skills for good, not out of bitter fucking jealousy. And Snitch Jacket makes my ass fucking green.

It's the story of Benny Bunt, an ex-tweaker in a shitsville part of Orange County with a dumpy wife and a shit job as a dishwasher. He's also a shameless follower who serves as a hanger-on to both an obviously-full-of-shit-Vietnam-Vet-Hitman named Miller and an obviously-full-of-shit-corrupt-cop named Munoz. For Miller Benny serves as an attentive ear for Miller's bullshit war stories/contract killing stories at their local, the Greasy Tuesday. For Munoz Benny serves as a snitch, ratting out all the other patrons of the bar for things like stolen tennis balls and other lame scams.

But then one day Miller puts his money where his mouth is and asks Benny if he'd be up for coming along on a hit with him. Benny naturally obliges, then naturally tells Munoz about the hit, leading to some fucked up situations, naturally.

Now I should say right now that this is a lazy little book. Truth be told, the plot doesn't even really move until about two-thirds the way through the book. Until that point it's all just Benny's crazy memory spouting facts and talking to bar bums and being generally pathetic. At least that's what it looks like.

It turns out in the end that what seemed like a shambling, lazy old slice of life of a book was actually a rather complex crime story where every event that came before has a purpose for being in the story. Now I say that not to be a douche and spoil shit, but to lay to rest any fears you might have about reading a slow-paced crime novel. Personally, if the book hadn't been anything more than it was on surface level, just the reader following Benny Bunt, the lamest criminal anti-hero in the history of anti-heroes, I would have been fine with it.

Because this book has a sack hanging off the spine, no fucking doubt.

Snitch Jacket is in a lot of ways a sort of anti-crime novel. The narrator's voice is not clipped and economical but colorful and windy. The main character is not someone whose badassery we admire but whose cowardice we detest. The world of the story is not one where danger lurks around every corner but where it can be easily avoided - shit, Newport Beach is right around the corner, for christ's sakes. The plot is not an adrenaline-charged super-sprint but an aimless stroll on Venice Beach - the particularly bum-riddled stretch.

But despite of all that - or fucking because of all that - I dug the shit out of this book. Snitch Jacket is its own thing and there is most definitely something to be said for that.

I hope Goffard continues to do crime and I hope he returns to the world of the Greasy Tuesday. Shit, I hope his next book elaborates on one of the billions of ideas he fucking drops throughout Snitch Jacket.

Fucking show-off.


jedidiah ayres said...

Line me up in the Goffard-ball-punch que. Snitch Jacket is the book I'll wish I'd written for years to come.

CrimeNerd said...

Yeah, I get the feeling that as more people catch up with SNITCH, Goffard is going to be pissing blood from assualts by envious writers.