My heart goes out to T. Jefferson Parker, author of lots of zingy crime books (including the Merci Rayborn series). Like me, T. Jefferson Parker goes by his second name, perhaps like me, because of parental eccentricity. Maybe my pity is misdirected; maybe T. Jefferson enjoys filling out forms that make no accomodation for us second-name-users; maybe he doesn’t mind explaining his second-name-use every time some clerk fails to find him in a store’s database. Maybe his first name is really only “T.”
Whatever the explanation (and I don’t buy the author’s own) I think the inner rage built up over years of second-name-use discrimination fuels the violence in T. Jefferson Parker’s grippy California thrillers.
Take his recent L.A. Outlaws. Here we meet Suzanne Jones, a feisty gradeschool teacher who moonlights as an armed robber. She imagines herself to be “Allison Murieta,” the great-great-great-great (I forget how many greats) granddaughter of Mexican outlaw Joaquín Murieta. As Allison she steals high-end autos at the point of her .40 two-shot over/under ivory handled derringer cutely named “Cañonita.” If that’s not acting out, I don’t know what is.
That’s not the violence, though. Suzanne/Allison only threatens violence, does not apply it. The violence comes in when Suzanne stumbles on the very bloody aftermath of a McGuffin sale gone wrong: bodies all over the body (haha) shop where the McGuffin deal was supposed to go down. Suzanne snatches the bag of McGuffins and splits. That puts her on the radar of a criminal mastermind who craves possession of the McGuffin bag and dispatches an outstandingly viscious hitman to get them back.
The hitman, a bad Central American named Lupercio, specializes in murder-by-machete. So you can imagine the arterial action soon to follow.
That’s all the plot you’ll get from me without waterboarding, ladies and gentleman. Though, I suppose I should mention that the cop — a guy named Hood — who is hot on her trail is also, well, hot on her trail: Hood and Suzanne Jones fall madly in love which creates all sorts of professional complications from both their viewpoints.
Me, I listened to the audio version of L.A. Outlaws, read flawlessly by not one but two actors (David Colacci as Hood, Susan Ericksen as Allison Murieta). But you can save money by buying the paperback and reading it aloud by yourself, using a deep voice for the policeman, and a high voice for the girl thief.
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