Another Hell of a Book: Money Shot
As part of the fallout from last week's signing of Meg Abbott's kick ass anthology HELL OF A WOMAN, I moved my ARC of Christa Faust's MONEY SHOT to the top of my TBR file. The verdict? YIKES!
I had fun that day, meeting the assorted writers, and got to wander the streets of Santa Monica for a while with Christa. Lemme tell ya, that woman is something else. That day she was the Betty Boop of noir, decked out in vintage drag (I suspect she has plenty more personas hanging in her closet), walking the walk, talking the whatever, obviously pleased to be the first female writer to be published by Hard Case Crime and then, in the same breath, dismissing it as simply "I, THE JURY with tits."
Well, I'm hear to tell you that not only does MONEY SHOT come equipped with tits, but it also comes with balls. Big ones.
It's the story of a former porn star, Angel Dare, now running a talent agency for adult film stars in LA's porn industry, who gets involved in a nasty case of white slavery, smuggling and various shades of murder and betrayal. When the book kicks off, she's locked in the back of a crappy Honda Civic, shot and left for dead, convinced she's on a one-way ride to Hell.
Yeah, it sounds about par for the neo-noir course these days -- plenty of titillation and more than a spot of gratuitousness. The same ol' yadda yadda.
But it turns out MONEY SHOT is my kinda noir. The grown-up kind that has real people and a real story, not just shock tactics and cardboard pawns disguised as characters. The lady knows her stuff.
Sure, in a story set in the world of hookers and porn and stripping, junkies and killers, you'd expect to have your nose rubbed in it. But there isn't an ounce of fat here -- it's a tight ice-hard blast of pure noir; the sorta thing that takes heed of not just classic noir but also the times we live in; a big ballsy update to the genre that never feels like pandering or refried nostalgia.
There are desperate people here, circling the drain, living, breathing (and lying) characters who -- except for their occupation -- wouldn't be out of place in a James M. Cain novel, or a 1946 RKO B-noir. But they're also defiantly of the here and now, as real as tomorrow's headlines. These people are rough, they're tough... and they're fatally flawed. They're damned and doomed, too fucked to live, too hard to die without a fight and too blinded by greed or lust or hate to know it.
I'm not joking about the hard part, either. The combo plate of noir and hard-boiled is served here straight up, with style and tits and balls and without apology.
I didn't even know I was going to say anything until the words came out of my mouth.
"End of the line, bitch."
Then I shot him.
The book's due in late January. Don't say I didn't warn you.