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Book Review- “Fun and Games

In 2006 I was lucky enough to discover a cool little crime novel called “The Wheelman” by a writer I had never heard of before, Duane Swierczynski. A couple years later Duane picked up a second writing gig. He was now writing both crime novels and comic books and thanks to my job as a staff writer for Comic Book Resources I was lucky enough to talk with him on a semi regular basis. From talking with Duane and reading his work it’s become incredibly clear that the guy knows how to tell a hell of a story. If you’re a follower of his “Secret Dead Blog” you know the man is not just a writer of crime fiction he’s a fan. You also know that he’s a big movie buff. In his latest novel “Fun and Games” from Mullholland Books Swierczynski takes his story telling skills and uses them to blend together the best elements of action films and crime tales into what’s easily his most entertaining work so far.

One of the reasons “Fun and Games” is so entertaining is Swierczynski’s protagonist, ex cop Charlie Hardie. Hardie is a big, gruff, super tough, S.O.B. He definitely feels like a character you would see in a high octane, Hollywood action thriller, but he also has substance. He’s not the one-liner spewing death machine style character that some one like Schwarzenagger used to play. Hardie has more in common with the damaged and haunted heroes that populate the films of screen writer Shane Black. So yes, Hardie is a bad ass, but he’s also very human. He wrestles with some powerful personal demons and in between some fantastic action scenes, and some hilarious mishaps you get to learn more about the things plaguing Hardy. That classic combination of toughness and vulnerability makes Hardie a very compelling hero.

When “Fun and Games” begins Hardie is making a living as a house sitter. His latest job takes him to a lavish home in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills. It’s there where he runs into an actress that’s been marked for death by a very special group of assassins. What follows is an action packed cat and mouse game as Hardie and the actress Lane Madden try to stay one step ahead of the cunning and powerful cabal of killers targeting them.

The assassins after Hardie and Madden are a special group called “The Accident People” who specialize in making their murders look like accidents. They employ and operate a lot of techniques from the movie business so they’re just one of the many ways in which Swierczynski makes good use of his setting. The other is the vibrant way he describes all the real world LA locales. Swierczynski is a resident of Philadelphia but it’s clear he loves Los Angeles. I got some sense of that in his fantastic comic book one-shot ” Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall and the Death Queen of California,”which took place during Hollywood’s Golden Age, but here Swierczynski really shows off his appreciation for the history, locales, and overall strangeness of L.A. The sense of place and ties to the movie industry reminded me of one of my favorite Robert Altman films, “The Player.”

So overall, “Fun and Games” lives up to it’s title. Imagine if Shane Black and Robert Altman did their take on “The Parallax View” and set it in Los Angeles. That’s how cool and exciting “Fun and Games” is . Best of all it’s the first in a trilogy. I can’t wait to read the second Charlie Hardie novel, “Hell and Gone,” which is in stores at the end of this month.

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Categories: Book Review
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