Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review-Tempted By Trouble by Eric Jerome Dickey

 The bad thing about reading a new Eric Jerome Dickey novel is that you know you will have to wait a year for the next o51DwdieclaL._SL160_ne.

  How far will you go for love? What compromises will you  make to keep it? Dmytryk Knight has to answer these questions in Tempted By Trouble, The soon to be Best Seller from Eric Jerome Dickey and Dotton/Penguin Group. Dmytryk must live with those answers. Dmytryk is a respectable man, a man who has seemingly fulfilled the American dream. He is college educated and has earned a white collar job in Detroit's Auto Industry. Dmytryk is a conservative man who wears Johnston & Murphy wing tip shoes, wears conservative dark tailored suits even for dinner at home with a ghost.

He carries his fathers pocket watch and wears his fathers classical black fedora. He measures his accomplishments against the lessons he learned from his hard working parents. Until the crippling recession of the first decade of the 21st century comes along and puts his values to a test a lot of us are currently taking ourselves. Dmytryk is down sized from his comfortable six figure job, but recovers and puts on a blue collar, working the production line in the same auto plant. It's a step back, but Dymtryk is a noble man. "It's a birth defect," he says of that nobility. He meets Cora Mature who works on the line too. They fall in love and marry and between them they can still maintain that American Dream. Until the economy spirals into even darker times. Out of work for two years, having lost two fancy new cars, their town house in a "nice" neighborhood, run out of unemployment and spent their savings, they are forced to move into the small house that Dmytryk grew up in. The new cars are gone, but they have Dmytryk's fathers classic ' 69 Buick Wildcat which he meticulously maintains, dreaming of those shiny European status symbols. They work part time jobs. Many part time jobs, Dmytryk even delivers pizzas, a far cry from the boardrooms of GM. They maintain the dream as best as two decent people can in trying times until one day Cora gives into desperation-she'd grown up poor, and wasn't going back without a fight. Behind Dmytryk's back, she takes a job as an exotic dancer at a "gentlemen's club" that had no gentlemen as patrons. She take's the stage name of Trouble, then she becomes Trouble.

Cora is an erotic and exotic beauty. Brooklyn born and Detroit raised. She is the perfect mix of Dominican, Canadian, Jamaican, Chinese and "a few other dark exotic lands combined." A stunning beauty with an erotic face that "reminds Dmytryk of Maria de Medeiros Esteves Vitorino de Almeida." Child like and seductive all at once. Her metamorphous throughout the story is more physical, where Dmytryk's is more a transformation of the soul. Cora transforms from a woman of conservative and expensive dress and tastes into a woman that looked like she stepped off the cover of a magazine that featured stories penned by Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammet, maybe pulp stories about a mysterious buxom woman who carried a gun, a woman who had sex for fun and shot people for the same reason. Trouble meets a very dangerous man, a man that goes by the name of Eddie Coyle. Eddie Coyle steals from the rich and gives to the disenfranchised. Eddie Coyle seduces Trouble one night, with money, expensive meals and night spots, and a $5,000 fur coat because she is cold. Delivers her 24 hours later back to her husband and lures her into his world of bank robbery and deceit with a chance to live the high life once again. Dmytryk will do almost anything to honor his vows to love and protect Cora and seeing that he has failed at that duty, he agrees to work for Eddie Coyle.

While casually killing and dumping the body of his previous getaway driver and his wife, Eddie lays it all out for Dmytrk. First rule in this ruthless world. No witnesses. Eddie rants, "Capitalism is all about big fish devouring little fish and never stopping to masticate their prey. It's a good thing when you are winning. When you're losing, you see it's faults. The country is devolving. The Tea Party is out there expressing their outrage over health care. If this is the outrage that comes from health care, it's going to be crazy when immigration is brought to the table. Bad economy and racism, the fear of a new labor pool coming from beyond these shores to do jobs in an already jobless country-it will be a Molotov cocktail. It will be the Detroit race riots in '43 and the Detroit race riots in '67 and the Watts riots and the '67 Newark riots and the Oklahoma race riots in every state, city, and town in America." Dmytryk listens. Eddie had just murdered two people and was engaging in casual conversation about politics. Dmytryk goes from driving decisions in GM boardrooms to driving battered Chevy's as a bank robbing teams getaway driver. Sixty to zero in no time.

From there, Dmytryk is almost all in. He doesn't so much as sell his soul, as he sells his values and compromises his beliefs at the alter of love for his wife. He never gambled his honor or that birth defect, nobility, for if there was ever an honorable thief, Dmytryk Knight is him. He develops a brotherly affection for his "teammates", the inside guys, Sammy Sanchez and Rick Bielshowsky. He asks with concern after their wives and children. He is even taken into their confidence about a possible big job in the near future that could leave them all flush and able to retire. He even deals honestly with the psychopath Eddie Coyle and his thug brother, Bishop.

This team pull many robberies following the plans of Eddie Coyle and though the money is quick and the actual jobs take 2 minutes for $20,000 profit, Dmytryk finds that Cora spends it just like he had that regular six figure salary coming in. Their life is back to normal until the money starts to run low. Then Cora grows cold and distant, disappearing for days at a time with no explanation until he goes on another job for Eddie Coyle. After one such job he comes home and Cora is gone, no forwarding address.

He even comes to understand Sammy's mistress, and Dmytryk's secondary getaway driver Jackie Brown and her motivations even though she is an "alcoholic who sleeps with married men, has sex with the bedroom door open wide for everyone to see, kills people for fun and shoots innocent televisions to make a point." Even though she has a filthy, arrogant and dark demeanor, her dirtiness appeals to Dmytryk's resentment after Cora's disappearance.  Jackie is an ex soldier who lost her children in a custody battle while serving her country in a combat zone. Dmytryk see's her resentment and feelings of being betrayed by the same system she was fighting to protect. The same system that betrayed him and cost him his dignity and his wife.

After a job in The City of Lost Angles goes terribly wrong, and Sammy is killed and Rick is left behind as  Dmytryk has to flee one dead, the other badly wounded. Dmytrk and Jackie have to cooperate to make their getaway and wind their way across the country, Dmytryk battered and bruised after having rammed the getaway car into an innocent woman who slowed down to read a text message from her fiance. Her fiance was breaking it off in that 21st century way; texting. She ends up a hostage confused and damning her luck as she is forced to deliver Dmytryk to a meeting with Jackie. Jackie reminds Dmytrk of the First Rule: No witnesses.

From there, Jackie and Eddie Coyle lures Dmytryk into one final job. The big job.Eddie informs him, "By the way, Rick didn't make it. Dmytryk asks, "Does his wife know?" Eddie answers, "She knows and she knows to keep her mouth closed. If we have to visit her, it won't be to bring flowers." Eddie also tells Dmytryk that the secirity gaurd at the bank died, meaning that Dmytryk would face a capital musder charge if anybody talks.The big job is all that matters to Eddie Coyle and Jackie Brown . The job that will allow her to kidnapp her own children and flee to South America. Maybe Dmytryk will come with her. He hasn't Cora to go back to. She seduces Dymtryk, because he is a necessary piece of the plan, the meal ticket out of town. So, they make their way to Georgia where Eddie Coyle is waiting with the plan for their retirement. A plan that will leave Dmytryk living in a suburb of Detroit not far from downtown madness and near the corner of redemption.

Mr. Dickey has written a winner that is bound to top all the Best Seller lists. It is a dark work on canvass painted from many pallets. Noir, but not really Noir because in  Noir stories the characters are losers and are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should. And Tempted is filled with many characters that the reader wants to have win. You'll want them to redeem themselves, with the possible exception of Eddie Coyle. It's got a daub of Thriller written in there, but it is not strictly a thriller. It does have plenty of action that will keep you on the edge of your seat and licking your fingers to turn pages as fast as possible, but a good deal of the "thrill factor" is in what will the characters do next. How will they react under morally challenging pressure. It's certainly a bit of a crime novel, but their are cops only peripherally involved and you need cops chasing bad guys for a "crime novel". It also is a bit of a "Road Story" but not purely so since the geographic destinations are secondary to the destinations of the heart and soul. What Mr. Dickey has done here is transcend genre. He has written a tale that is  all of those things mentioned above and a moral tale at the same time. A tale with contemporary themes, readily empathized with by a large portion of the planets populace at this point in history. A tale that could almost be told about any number of people real or fictitious in these times of political and economic upheaval that you, the reader, may be dealing with right now. Mr. Dickey has once again proven that he isn't just the best African American novelist working today, but indeed among the absolute best American Authors. In the end-it's a story of how we struggle and how we overcome, a great tale of survival and a love that....let's call it a great love story...that's what we do.

(I'd like to thank Eric Jerome Dickey and Ava Kavyani, Mr. Dickey's Publicist at Dutton/Penguin for providing the early release copy of Tempted By Trouble-Available August 17th in bookstores everywhere. Preorder it now from Amazon by clicking the book covers above.)

The Dirty Lowdown

Robert Carraher

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