CALLING MR. KING by Ronald De Feo

Book Quote:

“Odd thoughts were entering my head again. And like before I had no idea where they were coming from. Odd, crazy thoughts: another job just about done, after running stupidly about for weeks, all the tracking, waiting, time spent and wasted, and what do you get but another dead body, then on to the next hit, another city, another bastard to track, another doomed man, to be taken out by me or someone else, it really made no difference, dead is dead. The same story, the same routine. You pull the trigger, the man falls. But what if you didn’t pull the trigger? That would be different. That might even be exciting. That would change everything.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  SEP 1, 2011)

Calling Mr. King by Ronald De Feo is an exhilarating read. It is poignant, funny, serious and sad. It grabs the reader from the beginning and we go on a short but rich journey with Mr. King, a hit-man, an employee of The Firm, as he transforms himself from a killer to a would-be intellectual and lover of art and architecture.

Mr. King is one of The Firm’s best marksmen and, as the novel opens, he is in Paris to do a hit. Something about the job starts getting to him and he postpones his hit repeatedly. He puts off an easy mark day after day. When he finally does his hit, it is with a bit of trepidation, anger and regret, wishing that he had something better to do.

This “something better” begins to take shape in his life as an appreciation for art, especially the Georgian architecture of his adopted city, London. He gets excited, going from bookstore to bookstore and collecting books on architecture and works of art by John Constable, the artist. His employer, however, is not happy with him. They are upset about the amount of time it took for him to do his job in Paris and they decide to send him to New York on a vacation. Mr. King feels he is long due for a vacation so this is not the worst thing in the world for him.

In New York, he devours the bookstores and museums, daily increasing his knowledge and excitement about art and architecture, expanding his interests and horizons in this area. He becomes interested in Regency style and art nouveau. He goes to see the Constable show at the Frick Museum after a clerk at Rizzoli’s bookstore recommends this to him. He also becomes interested in John Turner and artists who paint the English countryside.

He was known as Peter Chilton in London and he uses this alias to its full advantage in New York, acting like a rich and well-appointed Englishman. It is hard to tell where Mr. King ends and Mr. Chilton begins. He dreams of living in a Georgian home of his own some day. He takes on an English accent and his identity becomes obscured. He is now Peter Chilton, the art aficionado on vacation from his manor in England. He decides to dress the part and purchases a $215 shirt. This is his entry into the world of fashion as well as art. The shirt represents the possibility of something more, of his presenting himself as the real Peter Chilton, a man to whom fashion is paramount.

One day while resting in his New York hotel, the phone rings and it’s a call for Mr. King. This is the code name for The Firm calling him when they want a hit to be done. He is quite put out about being disturbed on his vacation but he leaves the hotel to return the call from a pay phone which is The Firm’s way of doing things. He is going to have to do a hit in New York. He is sick of The Firm. He finds his bosses stupid, “onions,” not up to his caliber. He does his hit within four hours in the hope that he’ll be able to rest and continue his vacation. However, he is transferred to Barcelona.

Once in Barcelona, Mr. King becomes so immersed in the architecture of Gaudi and the city’s art nouveau décor that he is overwhelmed. He knows that he has an important hit to do but by this time his bag of books is much, much heavier than his clothing and accoutrements. He is a man possessed by learning and potential.

We learn a bit about his early life. His father was a rage-ridden gun-crazy man, teaching Mr. King how to shoot animals – not how to play games or sports. His mother paid more attention to cleaning the house and taking care of her flowers than she did to Mr. King. When Mr. King left his home in a small suburb of New York when he was about twenty, it was in a traumatic way, and he was never to return except for his father’s funeral.

Mr. King often wonders what his life would have been like had he been exposed to things besides guns and hunting. He is excellent at what he does but could he have been something else, something of the mind? The reader wonders this along with him because he is caught up in a life he can never leave alive. A life with The Firm is a life forever with The Firm. No matter how much art and architecture he sees or yearns for it can never be enough. And when will his time run out?

Mr. King goes through existential angst with nods to Camus and Sartre as he feels like a stranger and has an overwhelming sense of nausea about his identity and his place in the world. He is alone and a loner, someone who has never thought of himself as one with the world. Since childhood, he’s been an outcast and finally, through his intellectual endeavors he is finding himself. The irony of this is that the closer he comes to finding himself, the further he travels from his required path.

This is a first novel by Mr. De Feo and it is an excellent piece of writing, one that had me devouring this book quickly. Mr. King made me laugh and feel deeply saddened. I was with him on every step of his journey and loved every minute of it. I hope that Mr. De Feo continues with his writing as he has quite an understanding of human nature.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 17 readers
PUBLISHER: Other Press (August 30, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt


September 1, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Debut Novel, Humorous, Mystery/Suspense, New York City, Psychological Suspense, World Lit

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.