(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Los Angeles, it is often observed in JUICE, “everybody does business.” The problem, as Robert Campbell is wont to assert in this sometimes rollicking tale, is that the “business” in question normally consists of individuals giving one another the business, and in far too many instances it is necessary to take a number and stand in line in order to participate.

Billy Ray, full-time cab driver, sometime actor, and perpetual hopeful, is always looking for the one big score which will liberate him from financial insecurity. Alfonso “Puffy” Pachoulo, sadist, shylock, and aspiring entrepreneur, wants to move off the police blotter and onto the social register. Benny “Checks” Chempenovsky, bookmaker and apprentice loan shark, wishes to diversify his source of revenue, as do the Doohan brothers--purveyors of fine automobiles and ethnic slurs. Francis Michael Fitzsimmons, the hired gun from “back East,” intends to parlay his leadership of a police department task force into high political office, while Allan Nadeau, society lawyer and financial facilitator for a host of investors, hopes to free himself from the pecuniary pressures imposed by his compulsion always to outspend his income by a substantial margin.

Meanwhile, as these various manifestations of urban blight collide, deceive, and maneuver for the gold ring, Eddie “Panama” Health, a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department and a beneficently bemused observer of the human condition, attempts to “serve and protect” while rescuing his own life from the dumpster. His task is made all the more difficult in that he is forced to deal with the demands of a new partner and the reality of an old love--now returned after a six-year sojourn as Billy Ray’s wife.

JUICE, filled with verve and Rabelaisian wit, has enough action to satisfy even the most jaded taste. With this newest work Robert Campbell attains a new plateau--a delightful combination of Elmore Leonard, Jonathan Latimer, and more than a bit of Donald Westlake. Campbell is a masterful weaver of the literary tapestry--so much so, in fact, that a goodly part of the enjoyment of this work lies in discerning just how and when he will unite the various threads into a completed design.