It's the story of a heartless and aggressive thug who rises to power and then succumbs to it. Joe Drum is a brutal man, animal-like in the way he approaches the world. Early on in the novel, he and a partner stumble upon a bunch of cash while doing a strong arm job for the big boss in town. They use it to leverage a higher position in the organization. From there, Drum sees all the weaknesses and attacks until he is the kingpin. Then things start getting interesting.
The first half of the book, chronicling Joe's strategies and conflicts on his way to the top, is enjoyable but not uncommonly good. We've read this kind of stuff before. The second half, where we learn through Drum that power does indeed corrupt, is uncommonly good. It is structurally satisfying as well.
I really want to talk about the sexual relations in the book, but doing so will mean revealing some pretty major spoilers. Put short and as vaguely as possible, The Big Guy subverts that tradition in crime novels of this era where the dudes either stalk or sexually assault the women who then fall in love with them. Great read. One of the best of this genre I've read so far. Great language, rich crime milieu, lots of creative action, decadence and sex, what's not to like? A nasty and smart little book.
Here's a link to a good review with some interesting info about the author (authors actually as it was "a couple of high school buddies who teamed up to write mysteries all their adult lives"). He doesn't like their other books, but many people do in the comments below. I'll keep my eyes open.
Okay, now here is the motherload: MysteryFile has pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about Wade Miller.
And here is a little Westlake reference : "