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‘Caught Stealing’ full of believable characters

  Bear with me on this.
  I’m going to write a fast review on “Caught Stealing” because I feel as if I owe author, Charlie Huston, a few good words about his first novel in the “Hank Thompson” trilogy. I’m in the middle of writing some other things, but I know if I don’t write this review right now, it won’t get done. Also, Charlie Huston isn’t a famous writer as of yet, but he’s definitely getting there with his “Hank Thompson” series and his “Joe Pitt” vampire novels. Give this man a few more years. He’s going to soon be famous and the Hollywood movie people will be knocking on his door for the film rights to his books.
  “Caught Stealing” is the first novel dealing with Hank Thompson, who is not a vampire living in New York City, but rather a bartender who once had a shot at the big leagues of baseball before injuring his leg. Now, Thompson has probably the worst luck of any fictional character I’ve ever read and maybe, just maybe, he reminds me a little bit of myself. Anyway, Hank Thompson is gliding along, keeping his head above water, surviving on a day-to-day basis with sore feet and a steady hangover when his next-door neighbor (Russ) knocks on the door one day and gives him a large travel box for animals with Bud the cat in it, asking Hank to take care of his pet while he’s out of town.
  No problem.
  If anything, Hank is a relatively nice guy and more than willing to help a friend in need. Naturally, things change for the worse a few days later when a number of unusual people start banging on Russ’ door in a futile attempt to get hold of him. It isn’t long, however, before they eventually start banging on Hank (and I mean this literally) in an effort to discover where Russ has taken off to. Evidently a large amount of money is missing and it looks like Russ is the one who took it.
  The guys looking for him (a crooked police officer, some Russian hoods, a redheaded psycho, and two very dangerous brothers who know how to hurt people) will do whatever it takes to track Russ down, and Hank is all they have at the moment. Of course, Russ didn’t run off with the money, and we’re talking millions. He simply hid it in a storage unit somewhere in New York City and stuck the key in Bud’s box. Before the story is over, however, Hank will be beaten up, his ex-girlfriend will be tortured and killed, and a number of his friends from the bar will be murdered. Still, it takes a lot more to happen before Hank finally decides to start fighting back. As he says when discovering the body of his dead girlfriend, “In a movie or a novel the guy would get mad and go on a killing rampage to get revenge, but all I wanted to do was to curl up under the table and go to sleep.” When Hank does get mad enough, he quickly discovers that it’s easier to kill somebody than he thought, and he’s going to take out as many of the bad guys as possible before they do the tango on him.
  Huston has a strange and unique style of writing (no quotation marks for the dialogue), but you get use to it rather quickly by getting caught up in the story and the somewhat unlikable character of Hank Thompson. I say unlikable because he’s clearly a victim of bad luck and has to react to everything that happens to him. Most literary heroes tend to take the initiative and act out of self-preservation by taking control of the situation that grips them like a fat lady holding a chicken wing. Hank doesn’t do this until almost the end; but, boy, when he does, the bullets start flying.
  I think because of this, his character is much more believable and that the average reader can certainly identify with him. I know that I did. Also, the author displays his extraordinary talent in character development by creating a long list of memorable figures such as the two brothers, Ed and Paris, who dress up like cowboys and never hesitate when beating someone to death, or Roman the cop, who reminded me of Denzel Washington in “Training Day.” The characters of “Caught Stealing” are utterly realistic in their behavior and idiosyncrasies, the dialogue is smart and sharp and right on the mark, and the description of New York City will have you believing that you’re actually there.
  Huston is certainly an author to keep an eye on. I can’t wait to start on the second book in the “Hank Thompson” series, “Six Bad Things,” so that I can find out what’s happened to our reluctant hero and how he’s holding up.
  Needless to say, this is a novel that I highly recommend!             

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