Book Review: Thieves’ Paradise: A Novel
Publication Date: May 01, 2002
List Price: $19.95
Format: Hardcover, 310 pages
Imprint: Dutton Adult
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
Book Reviewed by Thumper
Every summer I look forward to a new Eric Jerome Dickey novel. This year Dickey delivers one that I absolutely love! Thieves’ Paradise is a tight, smart, quick-paced, insightful novel about decisions and their consequences. It is a splendid book.
Dante, a 25 year old, reformed grifter, is one of the newly unemployed. The wolves aren’t howling at his door: they’ve pulled up a couple of chairs and had started playing Tonk on the kitchen table. Dante has no money and no prospects when he gets a call from his not distant-enough past in the form of Scamz, his former mentor. Dante can’t resist the attraction of his old hustler’s life, or Pam, a waitress/wanna-be actress. Dante rides the hills and valleys that accompany the visit to his old hunting grounds as he alternates between being the hunter and being the hunted.
When I started reading Thieves’ Paradise, I didn’t know where Dickey was taking me. After glancing the book’s synopsis, I was reminded of a world where novels written by Elmore Leonard or John Ridley live. In Thieves’ Paradise, I was taken to a community that was slightly on the left of my reality, one that I did not see, but was visible all the same, a society of hustlers and grifters. Dickey had touched on this territory once before with his short story, Caf’ Pile, featured in the Got To Be Real anthology. He succeeded with Caf’ Pile; I thought maybe he would again. He did.
I was not surprised that this latest cast of characters was on point. In Dante, Dickey created a full-bodied, three-dimensional character. Dante is cool. I empathized with him. Dante had a hard life, but he was not hard hearted. He is a young man in the last stages of defining his manhood, while living from one episodic event to another. Dante’s world includes a company of interesting characters: Pam, a waitress and trying-to-be actress still fighting for Hollywood’s attention is the current object of Dante’s affections; Big Slim, a pool hall proprietor with old fashioned Southern ways, missing fingers and a hidden past; and Scamz, Dante’s former mentor and master grifter. Scamz is fascinating. If Dante weren’t the main character, Scamz would have easily upstaged him.
Included in the story are Dickey’s trademark sex scenes. They’re hot! *Fanning myself * There should have been a warning sign stating that I needed to have a somebody close at hand while I read these scenes. Mind you, not necessarily that special anybody that I love, just anybody that’s willing. As I read these scenes, I thought, "Naw, now, all this can’t be his (Dickey’s) imagination. Man, some of this stuff had to have happened for real. I’ll have to follow him (Dickey) around with a hidden video camera and get some of this action on film and sell me some tapes and DVDs by Internet, mail order, phone telemarketing campaign, or sumpin’! *LOL*
I got a little curious if there would be any violent scenes in the novel as the story unfolded. There were. The scenes were visual with just the right amount of heat to ’em. Combined with Dickey’s excellent ear and timing, I wound up peppering the scenes saying out loud "Oh my Lawd", "Mmmm that gots to hurt" or reading the scenes with one eye covered. I do like my violent scenes grisly. Ain’t no need of them being pretty or snuggly cute, nor making the violence gratuitous. Dickey found the perfect balance.
Thieves’ Paradise is an awesome book. I was left ecstatic and wholly satisfied. I have had folks tell me that I like being right. Well, yeah, I like being right. Who wants to be wrong? * Eyebrow raised* A couple of years ago I stated on the discussion board that Dickey would grow as an author. Starting with last year’s Between Lovers and now Thieves’ Paradise, Dickey is bearing me out and proving to be one of our best writers.