Sometimes when I start a book, the opening grabs me, and I think, “This is good writing!” I have found, however, that such books usually disappoint me. They do not live up to that initial draw.
Mr. Hooligan by Ian Vasquez is such a book for me. Chapter one dangled a hope a fabulous tale to come. On the Caribbean island of Belize, a woman is speaking with a dying man, and she says she will tell him the story of a certain young man, who was in trouble years ago. No names, no hints, just the promise of a story worth the wait.
Immediately we move to Riley James and his friend Harvey, drinking, driving and getting into trouble. Thus begins the long story, told in real time, of how Riley became indebted to the Monsanto crime family; how he wants to get out, to marry the beautiful American woman living next door; how all is not what it seems.
I had hoped for somebody more sympathetic than a small-time crook for a protagonist, after that opening. I put down the book. I picked it up again, put it down again. The story just never gained any momentum for me, so I gave up.
I looked it up on Amazon and found six people had given it 5 stars. Booklist called it “classic noir” and said it “plays all the notes with feeling.” Could I be wrong? Absolutely. I may never have given the book sufficient chance. Or I might just not care for drug runners and their seamy world.
So if you are a noir fan, you like drug stories, or those set in the Caribbean, don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. In 2009, Ian Vasquez’ last book, Lonesome Point, won a Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. As I said, the man knows how to put words together. Whether you find what he has written a winning combination may depend on your tastes.