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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jan Moro will remind readers of some of James M. Cain’s and Jim Thompson’s worldly wise but chronically unlucky heroes. Although Moro likes to call himself a “businessman,” he is actually a grifter and junk collector who earns an occasional honest dollar doing house painting and home repairs. He spends more time in alleys than on the streets. He often eats out of dumpsters and earns cash by selling things people have thrown away. He knows many places where he can sleep for nothing. When he sneaks into the locked and supposedly deserted State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis hoping to set up a temporary home for the winter, he stumbles into a situation that could either make him a fortune or get him murdered.

Moro finds out that tough characters are using the fairgrounds as a place to train half-starved dogs to be pitted against hogs that have big tusks because they are a cross between domestic pigs and wild boars. Hoping to capitalize on his discovery, Moro becomes a paid police informant. The situation is far more complex than he had imagined; the police already know more than he does. The dog-and-hog operation is only part of an elaborate plot to assassinate a man called Billy Cigar who made his fortune by robbery and human slaughter in a South American country which cannot get him back for punishment because it has no extradition agreement with the United States. While cops, criminals, and a couple of beautiful women are trying to use Moro for their devious purposes, he is scheming to use them for his.

Michael Z. Lewin grew up in Indianapolis but has been living in England since 1971. He is an excellent writer who has twice been nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe award by the Mystery Writers of America. Like Cain and Thompson, Lewin has a gift for writing in the first-person vernacular. His spunky narrator-hero often digresses from his convoluted story to tell ethnic jokes, talking-dog stories, and anecdotes about his personal experiences.