Amici:The Chieu Hoi Saloon, by Michael Harris … a powerful novel that will quickly hook and won’t let go. Harry Hudson has a shitty past he can’t escape; a mistaken kill in Vietnam and a daughter he wasn’t paying attention to who drowned a few feet from where he’d set his Jack Daniel’s bottle. He’s also a chronic stutterer, a bit naïve and the type of good man who can’t help wanting the best for and from others no matter the cost to himself. He’s down on his luck when we first meet him (and his blood) at the Chieu Hoi Saloon. He’s left his wife and son and needs to find love (of one form or another) to survive.
You can’t help but root for Harry to conquer his demons and at times will wish the man were a bit of a sociopath to shield him from the demons of his past, but there’s much more to Harry’s story. Author Michael Harris delves into much more than one man’s struggle with his past. The author also deals with Harry’s present and future and when Harry finds himself in a grungy porn showcase joint, he also finds comfort in a world without restraints and judgment. The irony, of course, is that as fast as Harry can be comfortable the real world reminds him he really can’t enjoy himself (not for a minute, it seems) and a new form of guilt claws at his soul.
To complicate his life further, there’s the owner of the bar, Mama Thuy, a beautiful, pragmatic, savvy woman with a boatload of enthusiastic admirers (Harry becomes one) and a family overseas she’s sending coin in hopes of bringing them here. There’s Kelly Crenshaw, a black prostitute with a husband in the joint and a baby on the way (could it be Harry’s? He can only hope so.). Both women need Harry (at times desperately), but not for what Harry wishes to be needed … but having them want to need him is almost as good and Harry is always there to deliver.
Harry was fortunate to find a job with the local newspaper (he’s a journalist at heart, hearing voices from his past that involve a Japanese girl he inadvertently insulted long ago) but the more involved he becomes in other people’s lives (and the more he wants them involved in his), the more he forgets his responsibilities on the job. Then there are offshoots from each character and their entourages and the backdrop of the Rodney King Simi Valley verdict about to explode on the scene.
This was a very powerful read start to finish. The story will flip back and forth, present to past and back again several times over, which makes it all the more intriguing. Harris writes with literary authority and spits dialogue so real you’ll be wiping your chin. This is a very highly recommended read ... another MUST READ from PM Press.
The opening line to the book which was featured in a recent best opening line contest over at Spinetingler Magazine. Author Michael Harris delivers a fine one: “A year later, when it was Harry Hudson’s blood on the floor of the Chieu Hoi Saloon, Mama Thuy remembered the first time she’d seen him — a big guy in a tweed jacket, helping Rita and Navy Swede mop somebody else’s blood from around the legs of the pool table.” — The Chieu Hoi Saloon by Michael Harris.
Speaking of books (not nearly as good as the one reviewed above), my first ever published crime novel is now available on kindle for ’tree big ones (i.e., fazools … $3.00 American) … the story behind Eddie’s World was born from revenge (the background in the book) and written to try and impress the Principessa Ann Marie a long time ago now (it seems).
Eddie’s World also introduces my fictional crime family (the Vignieri’s) along with several other character who appear and reappear in the rest of my dopey mob books. Here’s the inside jacket cover: Eddie Senta has a problem, in this hard-boiled, fast-paced novel of crime. His attractive second wife, a highly successful marketing research executive who hears her biological clock loudly ticking, wants a baby. She also wants Eddie to clean up his act. Their marriage is going bad.
Nothing's going great for Eddie, in fact. His stints as a firecracker word processor in the legitimate business world dull him, and the kick he once got running for the mob has turned into mere efficiency. Maybe it's a midlife crisis, like his wife's unsympathetic therapist says.
Uneasy with the feeling that his world is daily shrinking, Eddie seizes the opportunity, when it presents itself, to make an easy score and at the same time to help out a friend. While Eddie by no means needs the five grand he'll make on the deal, he longs for the thrill--and the reinvigoration of his stale fortyish self--that a quick, uncomplicated robbery might bring.
Eddie’s World earned me my first ever *Starred Review* from Kirkus (or anybody else). Get it for kindle here.
“Fresh, fast and darkly-funny. A sure-footed debut from a writer with a spare, no-nonsense prose style who can make you like characters you think you shouldn't.” – Kirkus *Starred* Review
About that Kindle Stuff … currently, I get the books I've retained my rights to kindleized (if you will) by Joshua Talent’s wonderful service, ebook architects. I’ve read quite a few kindle books since I first purchased the thing and usually can readily tell the difference between those handled professionally and those done on the fly (which are quite often terribly formatted). Joshua literally wrote the book on how to do this stuff, but if you’re computer challenged like myself (even after 28 years of on and off word processing), you’ll pay the very reasonable freight and have THE pro at this stuff do it.
Contact Joshua Talent and his wonderful service here.
The Eddie’s World/Charlie Opera kindle book covers, which we’ve received some nice compliments on, were done by another wonderful service, GOS Mutlimedia has designed several outstanding book covers for me, including Charlie Opera, Eddie's World, (and coming soon Jimmy Bench-Press, and Cheapskates). In addition to book covers, GOS Multimedia offers additional self-publishing services such as editing, ebook conversions, print layout, graphic design, video book ads, websites, and marketing. GOS Multimedia aims to do everything a publishing house does but distribute the books and keep all the profits. Please visit them at their website, or email Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 818-585-9945.
And/or check out one of their excellent video book ads on YouTube:
One last plug for this Stella character ... Charlie Opera is still just $2.00 fazools ... mostly because the author remains computer challenged and has to figure out how to amend the price to $3.00 fazools ... but here’s some Charlie Opera plugs ... from the inside jacket: A gritty underworld thriller that takes mob bosses, hit men, and gangland wannabes to Las Vegas where the name of their game is Charlie Opera.
A guy goes to Las Vegas for a holiday. In a matter of hours he gets drunk, gets mugged, and gets dumped by his wife. Things could get worse, and do, in this new crime novel from Charlie Stella, whose work, says the San Diego Union Tribune, not only recalls George V. Higgins but also “stacks up well against the master.”
With bravura, alternating brutality with humor and high-octane action with virtuoso tough-guy dialogue, Stella crafts his story of Charlie Pellecchia, whose unwitting entanglement with New York mobster Nicky Cuccia plops him in the path of the DEA, FBI, and Las Vegas police. Law enforcement may find Charlie awkwardly in its way, but elsewhere—in deluxe casino hotel suites, at deserted construction sites, on quiet residential streets—a bodybuilding punk looking to be made, a professional killer, a mob chief’s double-dealing accountant, and a pair of Vietnamese gangbangers are all trying to put Charlie permanently out of the way. All because he broke a wiseguy’s jaw.
Add to the mix hookers with felonious kinks, a cop deeply troubled by his wife’s infidelity, a ham-fisted redneck with vengeance on his mind and some bad faith between a Brooklyn crime family and the Russian mob. Things go down tough in Charlie’s opera.
Some of our fortunate reviews for Charlie Opera ...
“For his third brilliant crime novel, following Jimmy Bench-Press (2002)...Stella’s dialogue is electric and funny...This outing Stella offers us quite a few sympathetic characters, from Charlie and the cocktail waitress he’s falling for, to strong-arm men Francone and Lano. You actually feel sorry for the poor New York Mafioso, dropped in Las Vegas like sharks flipped into a pool of piranhas.” – Publishers Weekly *Starred* Review
A Mystery Book of the Year 2003 Selection – Publishers Weekly
“Stella is carving himself a niche in crime literature somewhere between the late Eugene Izzi’s street noir and Elmore Leonard’s ironic tragicomedies. Bottom line: it works. Stella is a rising star.” – Wes Lukowsky (Booklist *Starred* Review)
Booklist runner-up to the Top Ten Mysteries of late 2003/early 2004 – Booklist
“Stella’s Goodfellas do their wild and crazy thing once more … the pace never slows, and you’ll like tough, tenderhearted Charlie a lot.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Combine Mario Puzo and Elmore Leonard, add a dash of George V. Higgins and what do you get? Charlie Stella, that’s what. His flamboyant characters, violent action and picturesque dialogue place his work among the best of underworld thrillers, past and present.” – San Diego Union Tribune