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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, August 29, 2005

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. New York: ReganBooks, 2005. ISBN: 0-06-039441-2

This probably isn't a novel I normally would have picked up, but one day I found myself with nothing to read over lunch at work. I do work in a library after all, so I headed downstairs to the public floor where the circulating collection is kept, and checked out the new titles display, which is where I latched onto this book.

At the Washington State Library where I work, the collection is pretty much limited to the Pacific Northwest as a subject, but that subject extends to authors from the area as well as books ABOUT the area. Jess Walter lives in Spokane, and much of this novel is set in that city, although part of it takes place in New York City as well.

Our protagonist, Vince Camden—that's not his real name—albeit it's the name he uses in Spokane, is in the FBI's witness protection program. A small time hood involved in credit card scams back east where he ratted on some mobsters, he now operates a doughnut bakery and shop. But, he has the old credit card thing going on the side as well.

The suspense begins when another mobster also gets put in witness protection in Spokane, and tries to muscle in on Vince's racket. Vince makes a trip back to the Big Apple, hoping to square his debts and get this mobster off his back.

The book's title comes from the fact that Vince, for the first time in his life, finds himself interested in politics, and the upcoming presidential election which pits incumbent Jimmy Carter against the up and coming Ronald Reagan. The Iran hostage crisis is at the heart of the campaign. Vince's burgeoning political awareness becomes symbolic of his desire to turn over the proverbial new leaf and start a brand new life, the life of a "normal" citizen, replete with wife and kid(s).

An entertaining and well-written book, but by no means a great literary masterpiece. Recommended for crime fiction fans, and for anyone who enjoys local color when the locality happens to be Spokane, Washington.

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