Dynamite Road

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

His publisher promotes Dynamite Road, as “a modern reinvention” of the hard-boiled detective novel. More accurately, Andrew Klavan has simply replicated the old tough-guy genre. Only readers with a taste for this sort of slam-bang, blood and guts story- telling should venture here.

Ex-cop Scott Weiss assigns Jim Bishop to investigate suspicious activities at a small Northern California airfield. On the scene, Bishop doesn’t hesitate to use his fists to get what he wants, nor does he have any qualms about seducing a pilot’s lonely and abused wife in order to learn about her husband’s connection to a shady local businessman named Bernie Hirschorn.

Back in San Francisco, Weiss researches two names Bishop passes to him. Both men were present at the death of an aging San Francisco porn and drug dealer. All the people present at the dealer’s deathbed, it turns out, have since mysteriously died or disappeared, with the exception of one man who is now incarcerated at North Wilderness State Prison, the state’s most isolated, maximum security prison. And what’s a hard-boiled tale without a femme fatale? In this case, among the missing is “angel-faced” Julie Wyant, a woman, Weiss discovers, who is indelibly imprinted in the imagination of every man she has encountered.

As Weiss puts together the clues and monitors Bishop’s sporadic reports, the two investigations converge—and Weiss suspects the involvement of an old nemesis, a mysterious assassin-for-hire dubbed The Shadowman. Then Weiss learns, too late, that his operative has infiltrated the scheme hatching at the airfield. Bishop and Bernie Hirschorn have flown a small plane north into the wilderness and disappeared. With his operative’s life in danger, Weiss races to unravel the developing conspiracy, to forestall an act of incredible violence, and, he hopes, to rescue Julie Wyant, the woman who now haunts his mind.

Two of Andrew Klavan’s previous more polished and less violent novels were successfully translated into popular movies (True Crime [1999] directed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say a Word [2001] starring Michael Douglas). Dynamite Road would find a more suitable home in a 1940’s pulp paperback showing a terrified busty blond on the cover huddled in the arms of a square-jawed guy dressed in a snap-brim fedora and a belted raincoat, and armed with a gleaming nickel-plated forty- five.