Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tommy Red, Charlie Stella

There are few writers (except possibly Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins), who can write mob dialogue as well as Charlie Stella. Knowing what words and letters (or lack of them) to put on the page to make the exact right sounds reverberate in your head is an art. I could watch GOOD FELLOWS on automatic replay and never be able to duplicate its language structure. Even if Stella writes it from the inside, it is still a significant skill . And dialog like his can be a shorthand for explaining the lives and minds of his characters. If some writers define their characters and place through long descriptive passages of country life or artwork or the steel and techno world of workplace, Stella puts us there with a well-placed piece of dialog, a turn of phrase, a quick observation, a cultural reference. 
Another thing-he is also skilled at adding details that will place the reader in that world. It never feels forced or overworked. He has a skilled voice, and an unerring ear.I pick up books all the time that flounder at the attempt to do this.

In his latest book TOMMY RED, our hero, if one can call a hit man that, is hired to get rid of a guy waiting patiently in New Hampshire to rat out important people under the witness protection program. Trouble is, when the job is done, the men who hired Tommy want him gone too. Tommy, as an Irish man, has never completely convinced the mafia of his loyalty. And certainly they have never won his.

Tommy is not about to let himself be offed. Not with his daughter almost ready to enter vet school and make him proud. So Tommy does what he does best: takes his revenge. 

You learn a lot about Tommy in the next one hundred plus pages, about his unhappy marriage to the one-time bar lap-dancer, Sandi, about his daughter, Alyssa, about his political opinions. So too the mob boss and the ex-cop who gets the story rolling after picking up  his wife from decoupage camp.
This is a clever and to- the-point novel yet it never feels rushed. And as a reader not overly adept at understanding 1) spy stories 2) money stories 3) mob stories, Charlie makes navigating my way though the plot fun.

.And funny. How can you not laugh at this line. 
 It was a little after one o'clock in the morning when he was thinking he'd like to bite the ass of that Mother of Dragons broad about to take a bath. (Game of Thrones)

Spending a few hours with TOMMY RED makes for a perfect spring afternoon.  


Charles Gramlich said...

Clever dialogue is nice. but you know me, I'm not a big fan of dialogue.

Charlieopera said...

Very kind, Patti.

Charles, fair enough. Me, I shoot myself before I read sci-fi. Sauseech his/her own.

Margot Kinberg said...

You're so right, Patti, about the power of well-chosen words. They really do resonate and make a story unforgettable.

Mathew Paust said...

He's a Berniebro, too. What's not to like?

Dana King said...

He'd been away (from fiction writing, not like AWAY away) for four years, but hit the ground running on his comeback. This might be his best book, along with CHEAPSKATES.

Kelly Robinson said...

I DO like dialogue, when its done well. And good mob dialogue sounds even better.

Dana King said...

Kelly, then Stella's your guy. He writes the best mob dialog since George V. Higgins. Sometimes better, as Stella stays on point and Higgins is prone to wandering at times. (I'm reading THE DIGGER'S GAME, so I'm seeing it.)