Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jack Wakes Up by, Seth Harwood

Jack Palms walks into a diner just south of Japantown, the one where he's supposed to meet Ralph.

Once upon a time, Jack was the toast of Hollywood.  He was the star of a mega-hit action movie called Shake 'em Down and had a beautiful trophy wife and the world on a platter.  These days, he's a divorced, washed-up actor who just spent several years weening himself from coke and booze.  The bills are piling up and the mortgage on his gorgeous San Francisco mansion is overdue.  When his old friend Ralph Endorino calls with the promise of quick, easy cash, Jack jumps in it.  All he has to do is flash his once-famous smile to get Ralph and some friends through the door of an exclusive night club or two.  Needless to say, Ralph soon turns up dead and Jack is up to his neck in Czech gangsters, Colombian drug kingpins, and SanFran's finest street thugs.

Jack Wakes Up starts with a nice setup and a strong protagonist.  The character of an action movie star on the wrong side of his career is one with a lot of promise.  Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to that promise.  The dialogue was repetitive and quite clunky.  The majority of the characters sounded exactly the same; I can't tell you how many times someone ends a sentence calling Jack "my man".  Some reviews call the book Tarantino-like and in a way it is, only Seth Harwood embraces the worst aspects of QT's work.  There are some funny moments, but the characters aren't as clever as they think they are and the dialogue is littered with every variation of the f-word that you can imagine.

Some clunky dialogue can be glossed over if the rest of the book is solid, but it's not.  The story is almost nothing but dialogue and stage direction.  Character A says something.  Character A rubs his forehead.  Character B points his chin at something.  Character A nods.  Character B says something and pinches his nostrils between his thumb and forefinger.  And on and on and on.  There are very few attempts to get inside the characters' heads or even take a breath to describe their surroundings.

I don't want to make it sound like I hate the book.  I think there are some interesting characters and a story to be told here.  If you turned this into a mindless summer action movie starring Vin Diesel, you could make $200 million without breaking a sweat.  But the pieces aren't quite where they need to be to make this a good read.

I'd heard good things about Jack Wakes Up and had been looking forward to it for a while, so I couldn't help but be disappointed.

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