Bobby Vargas is a Chicago beat cop - about as straight as they come – with aspirations of making a living playing jazz guitar. When a blast from his past shows up in the form of an old girlfriend he believed to be dead, Bobby’s life is turned upside down and inside out. Arlene has remained the elusive “love of Bobby’s life.” Much like their hallowed childhood friend, Pete Pan, Arlene remained forever young and pure and perfect in Bobby’s memory. However, reality splashes harsh color on the canvas and a whole different picture evolves; Bobby fights to hold his life together, watching helplessly as powerful forces tear apart his very foundation.
There may have been some time between Charlie Newton’s acclaimed debut novel, CALUMET CITY, and this follow-up, but the product was more than worth the wait. The dark underside of Chicago’s gangland snarls and bites juxtaposed against the sheer beauty of Newton’s writing. Echoes of Newton’s musical influence come through in his language and that dichotomy raises the emotional impact.
The characters that compose the cast of START SHOOTING run the gamut, and not one feels forced or flat or superficial. Every character carries the weight of life; some characters just have a heavier bag than others.
Themes of dreams, sacrifice, hope and perseverance proliferate: Chicago setting its sights on an Olympic bid, no name actresses seeing their names in lights, the innocent believing in the justice system. No matter how slim the chance, somehow striving to reach the goal is worth the likelihood of missing altogether.
This gritty, dark, brutal love story hidden in the guise of a crime novel captivates readers, transporting them to Newton’s chilling world where nothing is as it seems and if you don’t learn to play dirty, you’re guaranteed to lose.
If you’ve experienced Newton’s CALUMET CITY, you’ve likely been waiting anxiously for this release. If you haven’t experienced Charlie Newton’s art yet, now is the time. Make haste!
START SHOOTING is available today from Doubleday (ISBN: 9780385534697). I believe there will also be an audio version produced from Books on Tape, narrated by Nancy Linari, Tish Hicks and Serafin Falcon.