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by Y. Blak Moore
Format: Paperback, 230pp
Pub. Date: March 2003
Publisher: Random House, Incorporated
Reviewed by Thumper
Triple Take, the debut novel by Y. Blak Moore, reminds me of an old timey Hollywood western. Despite the fact that Triple Take takes place in the 21st century mean streets of Chicago, the basic story about a man returning to his hometown to destroy the people who wronged him has been the premise of many a Saturday matinee western. Although Triple Take has a couple of major flaws, the only elements separating Triple Take and those old movies are a big TV screen, a weekend afternoon, and a screen credit saying "Directed by John Ford". I was transfixed and thoroughly entertained.
Jonathan "JC" Collins is the victim of deceit. He served a 10-year prison term for armed robbery because his boyhood friends betrayed him. In order to save themselves, JC's three "friends", Richard "Richkid" Kidman, Alonzo "Zo" Johnson, and Eugene "Lil G" Pierce, falsely testified against him. For the last ten years, JC has been plotting to do them dirt. He don't want to kill them. Oh no. He just wants to take all of their money away from them. That's easier said than done because his former buddies have become powerful in the criminal underworld. Richkid is a wealthy pimp with a stable of women. Zo is one of the leading drug dealers in the city. And Lil G is an expert con artist. JC used his ten years of jail time wisely. He's developed his body, his mind, and has formulated three plans of attack to bring his friends down to Poverty Row and ruin. With the help of his new woman, Champagne, his best friend Rat, and Rat's girlfriend, Shaunna, JC will execute his plans -- but he will wind up with more than he bargained for.
I liked Triple Take a lot. As I stated before, Triple Take has all of the elements of classic westerns, which I have always considered to be morality plays. This novel is a morality play set in urban Chicago with a hero seeking justice, villains the audience loves to hate, and the enactment of a good versus bad scenario. Triple Take has another factor in its favor -- it has the fingerprints of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines all over it. Good stuff. I slurped Triple Take up like it was melted butter pecan ice cream.
There were a few thorns on this rose of a book, a few missteps, which prevent me from drowning this book in praise. JC is a fine character. I couldn't help but cheer for him. JC is intelligent, quiet, and basically a nice guy; however, he will get in your face if provoked. Prison had made JC hard, but not hardhearted. I liked that in him. I didn't mind Rat, JC's sidekick. Rat is loyal, funny and not afraid of anything breathing air. If Moore had simply told the story focusing on JC and Rat as a duo, the novel would have been tighter. But Moore erred by giving JC and Rat female companions. The inclusion of Champagne and Shaunna was completely unnecessary, and added no substance to the story. The romances between the two couples interrupted the flow of the tale, and distracted from the main plot of JC'S quest for vengeance.
It did not help that writing romance was not one of Moore's strong suits. This was glaringly obvious, for whenever Moore spotlighted the romantic portions of the story, the quality of the writing dropped considerably. I wondered if the romances were later incorporated into the novel in a clumsy effort to appeal to female readers. Because of this, a small portion of the book has a choppy, segmented feel. Also Moore does not write sex scenes well either. These stiff and bland scenes were the worst ones in the book. If these scenes were a horse, I would have done the humane act of shooting the poor, pitiful creature in the head in order to put it out of its misery.
Alas, all is not lost. I did state earlier that I liked Triple Take. Allow me to elaborate. Moore did an excellent job of bringing the mean streets of Chicago to life. Moore moves through the world of con artists, drugs dealers, and prostitutes with a light touch, and a sure, confident hand, making the story absorbing and infectious. When Moore focused on the gritty reality and danger of JC's quest, the writing simply glowed. I literally did not put the book down until I finished it.
Triple Take is not as clean or tight as I would have preferred. Overall, I did find the book entertaining.