Patrick K. Jassoy,
It Isn't Easy Being Johnny Style
(Booklocker, 2003)

It Isn't Easy Being Johnny Style tells of a private detective in modern Chicago with an old grudge, a penchant for extended flashbacks and a vocabulary that can only be described as anachronistic. And it's not easy to write a noir-style detective novel either, if Patrick Jassoy's journeys with Mr. Style are any indication.

Not that Johnny Style is without his charms. He knows how to keep busy and how to make an entrance. From the first chapter, Johnny's either in a brawl, looking for a fight or remembering great fights of his past. Breaks in the action last just long enough for Johnny to notice a special corner of squalor, an especially ugly mug or an unusual dame. And Johnny's sense of ego, though attached to a man who never approaches anything near likeable, is at least compelling. Everything he does -- falling in love, making enemies, blowing up warehouses -- is done in true heroic fashion, i.e., on the spur of the moment and without any logical reason whatsoever. Why does he fall for high school dream queen Anita? Why doesn't he report his dangerous enemy Santiago to the police before the cycle of violence starts? Why does Johnny call people he doesn't like Snelgrove? Hey, why not, as long as it fits together to make a story.

But Johnny himself just never seems to fit in -- at least not with himself. A child of the 1980s trying to sound like a man of the 1940s, a street punk who randomly acquires the attitude of a degreed psychiatrist, Johnny has an unfortunate knack for pointing out how unlikely his story actually is. Since he's already dealing with an untouchable high school crime king in a strangely cop free universe, this is not a good thing.

But when Johnny isn't drawing attention to his own impossibility, he's a lot of fun to watch. His story's got drama, pathos, explosions and all the plausibility of the drunk at the local bar who says the FBI is sending messages to his dog. But as long as the drunk stays entertaining, it might be worth it to buy another round, and hear why It Isn't Easy Being Johnny Style.

by Sarah Meador
18 November 2006

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