LOSERS LIVE LONGER by Russell Atwood

Book Quote:

“In danger and in lovemaking our bodies are transformed. Blood flows rapidly to all the necessary parts, our muscles expand and our joints become more fluid. We’re at the height of our efficiency, like it’s what we were meant to do. It makes all the other activities in our life seem like a ridiculous waste of breath. Meaningless fillers between love and death. But to be honest, I’d rather been home watching TV.”

Book Review:

Review by Daniel Luft (SEP 3, 2009)

Russell Atwood’s Losers Live Longer is a warm and inviting book, like an old memory of a trip to Grandma’s house – that’s if your grandmother was Barbara Stanwyck in a slit skirt and she was packing heat.

Payton Sherwood, the narrator, of this fast-moving novel, is a tough-talking, cop-hating, gun-toting, New York private eye who wisecracks his way through a book-length 24 hours on the trail of a blackmailer, a millionaire fugitive and a Hollywood starlet. It’s reads like the last three decades of crime fiction never existed.

There was once a time, the 1920s through the 1960s when the private eye was found throughout crime fiction. And having a fun time of it. A quick re-read of Dashiell Hammett may surprise the reader because his operatives are having fun risking their necks. Other unflappable detectives followed. Frank Kane gave us Johnny Liddell, Brett Halliday birthed Mike Shayne and the terminally-underrated Mickey Spillane unleashed Mike Hammer. They all existed in short, sexy, punchy novels that could be both thrilling and funny.

During the 1960s, the private eye was slowly replaced on the paperback racks by the international spy or the big city cop novel. And the mysteries became longer, almost ponderous. The more tragic, “serious” PI novels of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald had gathered the critical praise through the years and those are the ones that get reprinted and remembered and imitated. But there once was a time when the private detective genre was full of fun.

And Losers Live Longer is full of private detectives. Sherwood bumps up against no less than five other private eyes in a single day. Each one he meets talks tough, carries a gun, roughs him up and probably smokes.

It begins when he receives a call from legendary PI (there is such a thing?) George Rowell. Rowell is in Lower Manhattan trying to help a friend when he thinks he’s being tailed. He calls Sherwood and asks for some backup. But before Rowell can meet with Sherwood and explain the case fully, he is run over in traffic outside Sherwood’s office. Sherwood than decides to try to find out about both Rowell and what he was working on before he died.

This simple act leads him to his angry, old boss (another PI), a couple of East Bloc refugees from the porn industry, a drug-addicted girlfriend of a recently-overdosed actor and a skateboarding punk who seems to know everything before Sherwood figures anything out.

And Sherwood himself is not much of a detective to begin with. He’s broke, he’s tired, he still uses dial-up and he’s shoeless throughout chapter two. All he really has going for himself is his wit and an ability to stay awake throughout the entire book:

“There’s and undeniable thrill in being hunted. Whether it’s race memory, instinct or perversion, since childhood we’ve all enjoyed the game of hide-and-seek. And there was an atavistic part of me that wanted to enjoy it even now. But seeing a boy’s head shot off would dampen even the most ardent player’s enthusiasm.”

This kind of narrator makes for a breezy ride and a book that begs to be read in a single sitting. And it is only in a single sitting that this plot-stuffed novel will make sense to the reader. There are so many strange characters and plot twists coming at this detective that it’s amazing he knows what to do next.

The story takes place very much in the present. There are ipods, cell phones, Google and storefronts that still exist in Lower Manhattan. But the book’s attitude is a throwback to the 40s. Payton Sherwood says he’s wearing jeans and sneakers but the dialogue and narration tell the reader that these men are all in pinstripe suits and fedoras while the women have seams in their stockings. Everyone smokes, drinks and casts a long, dark, sinister shadow in grainy black and white.

Russell Atwood has created a wonderful narrator in Sherwood and Losers Live Longer will send most of its readers looking for the author’s first novel East of A which was written an entire decade ago. For the sake of everyone involved, the author needs steal another trick from the past and write faster. Crime fiction needs guys like him.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from x readers
PUBLISHER: Hard Crime Case (August 25, 2009)
REVIEWER: Daniel Luft
AMAZON PAGE: Loser’s Live Longer
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Russell Atwood

1999 website for Russell Atwood

EXTRAS: Excerpt
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September 3, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Contemporary, New York City, Noir, Sleuths Series

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