Atlantic Monthly Press/Grove Atlantic, Inc., $24.00, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2304-6
We’ve all been guilty, at some time or another, of staying at the party just a wee bit too long, or succumbing to the exhortations of one of our Good Time Charlie pals, to Awwwgoahead, one more won’t killya . . . and awakened the next day feeling like hammered doggie doo-doo. But it’s a pretty sure bet that not a one of us awakened more than a week later with a crooked cop, the FBI and the Russia mafia all searching for us. For a young down-and-outer named Emily Rosario however, it’s a nightmare come true in this week’s MBR number 232 entitled, The White Van, by first-time author Patrick Hoffman.
Emily’s a human wreck—addicted to drugs, drinking like a fish, living in squalor in San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin District—she knows she’s got to escape the lifestyle, or die. In her thirties, she still has her youth and looks . . . all she needs is a stake, money to ride and she’ll get clean and sober . . . then start her life over. It’ll be like nothing ever happened. Sure it will. As Emily’s drinking shots of cheap whiskey in a dive bar one night and contemplating her future; a Russian man sits down on the stool next to her and buys her a drink. Several shots and a few hits of Oxycotin later, Emily thinks her prayers are answered when her new friend asks if she’d like to help him and two others in a simple identity theft. No one gets hurt, and they’ll split a million bucks three ways. She agrees. It’s the last thing she’ll remember when she wakes up a week later under some bushes in a remote part of the city wearing someone else’s clothes. She’s groggy and massively hungover, pill-dependent, strapped to a canvas bag stuffed with cash and handcuffed, with a loaded gun in her pocket and no recollection of how she came to be there. Emily stumbles toward the city, where she discovers that she’s wanted for bank robbery. There’s also a desperate, alcoholic and crooked cop who’s hoping to find her before anyone else, seeing Emily as the solution to his debt problems. And then too, there’s those mad-as-hell Russians in the white van . . . who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on her.
But that’s only a hint of the diverse, jaded and low cast of characters who inhabit the underbelly of one of America’s greatest cities. If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss over the Noir genre is about—here’s a chance to get acquainted with excellent example. The White Van is a rock-n-roll thriller from start to finish. There’s not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that Patrick Hoffman is an author to watch. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!