As the designer on Pulp Modern Vol. 2 No. 1, edited by Alec Cizak, I was predisposed to enjoy his latest book, Down on the Street, from Down & Out Books. Fortunately, the novel goes far beyond any struggle for objectivity. It is simply, terrific.
As crime fiction goes, Down on the Street is on the deep, dark side. Its main characters embrace one bad idea after another to make the rent or pay off an urgent obligation that looms around the corner. Lester Banks is a balding, world-weary cab driver who ekes it out in the same run-down apartment building as Chelsea Farmer, a college girl who looks arrestingly out of place in her squalid surroundings.
Their stories intertwine with touches of humanity between their lousy choices and the lousy consequences that follow. Like their mutual brainwave to pimp out Chelsea, making her fair game for a series of Johns who seem intent on turning prostitution into property. It all seems real, sprung to life inside the reader’s mind, through the characters’ street-smart dialogue and shortsighted schemes.
Even before I put the first chapter behind me, I was caught, transfixed as Lester and Chelsea plunge headlong into their world of excess, violence, and sex. Dangerous and vicarious at first, things quickly turn raw and sobering, as these broken spirits scrape toward rock bottom.
Cizak’s novel is a fast, brutal trip down on the street. The writing is terse, with a lyrical quality that belies its spare, driving narrative. “The air outside wobbled from the heat. He hustled to his cab and cranked the engine to get the A/C working.”
If you only try one new crime fiction author this year, make it Alec Cizak. His new book is well worth the price of admission and, more importantly, your time.