Tuesday, March 27, 2012
20. Loan Shark by J.W. O'Dell
The story starts in medias res as deadbeat gambler and alcoholic Joey Casey loses all his bets in his last big play. He is in deep to a shylock and not just any shylock, but one of the meanest and least compromising, Macaluso. Worse, he drunkenly talked shit about Macaluso and even mocked his retarded daughter. So Macaluso's two top goons, old pros Fine and Demera, are after him and it's quite possible that this time they'll take his life.
The other important character is Frank Cassidy, Joey's older, smarter and more responsible brother. He is in his own bad place, but it is more psychological. He's a cop who never tried for promotion because that would have revealed how he lied about his identity to hide the existence of his brother with a record. Furthermore, his wife had died. Totally estranged from Joey, he spends his days working in a dull daze and his nights being depressed.
The whole book takes place in about a day and a half, with Casey on the run, swinging between despair, fear, anger, hopelessness, a lot of it related to whatever stage of drinking he is in. Finally, he turns to his last option, his brother. And that's what Loan Shark is about, the relationship between these two brothers and the choice Frank decides to make.
It's a quick, absorbing and intense read. All the characters are richly portrayed with an efficiency of text and a realness that makes it effective. The portrayal of Joey's alcoholism is extremely believable. You hate the guy for his selfishness, his lying, his manipulation, but you also can't help but sympathize with his inevitable downward spiral. Excellent book. I can't find very much else about this author. Anybody out there know anything about J.W. O'Dell?