“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: GRIND JOINT by Dana King

The opening of a new casino gives the depressed Pennsylvania town of Penns River a welcome economic boost in Dana King’s Grind Joint (Stark House), even if some of the town’s more upstanding citizens are concerned about the origins of the venture’s start-up capital. When the body of a drug dealer is discovered dumped on the casino’s steps just before its grand opening, it appears that their worst suspicions are confirmed: the casino will serve as a ‘grind joint’, a clearing house for dirty money. When detectives Ben ‘Doc’ Dougherty and Willie Grabek begin their investigation, however, they quickly find themselves stymied when confronted by vested interests that include mobsters, politicians, ex-spooks and certain high-ranking members of their own department. Rooted in the Slavic ethnic heritage of Western Pennsylvania, Dana King’s style – this is his fourth novel – has been compared to the work of the late Elmore Leonard, and it’s easy to see why: Grind Joint is a compelling tale of small-town gangsters and cops rooted in vernacular dialogue, and blackly comic in the way the bad guys’ ambitions easily exceed their abilities. In truth, Grind Joint reads more like a proto-Leonard story, one more reminiscent of George V. Higgins, whose The Friends of Eddie Coyle exerted a major influence on Leonard’s style. There’s a chilly and occasionally unsettling quality of realism to King’s unflinching appraisal of the devastating impact of economic downturn on small-town America, which leads its protagonists to perform increasingly convoluted moral gymnastics. ~ Declan Burke

  This review first appeared in the Irish Times.

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