Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's All About the Money and Family in 'Steal the Show'


Review: STEAL THE SHOW (Minotaur Books 2011)
Author: Thomas Kaufman

Willis Gidney isn't your average private eye. For one thing, he was raised in the tender loving care of the Washington, D.C. juvenile justice system. Which is to say, he grew up hard and fast.

Incidentally, Gidney is a white man. For good or ill, race plays a significant role. D.C. has a large black population. And it's juvenile justice system is no exception. So Gidney grew up a minority within that system, as well as one within his own hometown.

He's also unmarried and looking to adopt a daughter who's currently in the clutches care of the D.C. Adoptive Services agency. Her name is Sarah. Well, Gidney calls her Sarah, anyway. Her actual name is Baby Jane Doe or some really institutional "who gives a good crap about you" name.

And wouldn't you know that Gidney's case worker turns out to be the biggest b*tch most ruthless bureaucrat of them all.

So Gidney really needs to get his hands on some moolah big time. To pay his lawyer. So he can grease the legal wheels and adopt this kid.

As a result, Gidney does just about the stupidest most desperate thing you can imagine. He agrees to break into a warehouse and ends up finding a lot of movie pirating equipment.

But he does it for the money, so he can grease the wheels and get the kid, so it's okay, right? No, it's not.

Turns out his client is an asshole a jerk and takes pictures of him breaking into the warehouse. Imagine!

So then the client uses the pictures to force Gidney to work for his father. The client's father, that is. Gidney don't have no daddy, remember? :( Anyhow, Gidney is forced to work for the client's dad, a lobbyist for motion pictures. Don't ask. He needs the money, okay?

Plus, have I mentioned how much I like Gidney? He's really awesome, tough and funny. Plus, Thomas Kaufman writes about D.C. with a style that's wholly his own. He captures the feel of the place perfectly. His prose reflects the hardboiled sensibilities of a modern Raymond Chandler, but does so in a fresh and unique way.

As for the plot, I don't dare tell more for risk of spoilers. Just know that Gidney's girlfriend, Lilly, is an important part of it. Gidney and Lilly share many touching scenes together. (No pun intended. Ha ha ... ) The book also features many other colorful characters, like his clever, albino attorney, various ruthless ganstas and a diva actress who tries to seduce Gidney while impaling his foot with her spike-heeled shoe. Nice! And as is customary for hardboiled mysteries, this one's got twists and turns aplenty.

So ... why is the book called STEAL THE SHOW? Because it involves film piracy. However, the great director Alfred Hitchcock used a plot device called a MacGuffin. It was a thing the characters sought or desired that was used to drive the plot, which could end up being essentially meaningless in the grand scheme. In my opinion, the film piracy in this novel seems like a MacGuffin. This story is really about Gidney's need for money and his desire for a family. This gives the book far more emotional resonance than the average private eye novel. Pretty damned awesome.

PS: How does someone in the trunk of a car survive an accident in which the auto flips over, crashes and burns, then emerge from the trunk without a scratch? I don't think so ...

PPS: It's Hopkins Street, not Hopkins Place. Ahem! :)

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