Saturday, March 8, 2014
Little Elvises by Tim Hallinan
One picks up a book by Tim Hallinan to have fun. There’s a little murder, sure…sometimes a lot of murder…but it’s usually the bad guys that “get it” and we rest easy, knowing there is someone out there who’d rob us blind if he could, but who won’t take more than we can afford to lose.
Hallinan’s creation, Junior Bender, is the kind of guy you might ask back to your house for a party, after he’d robbed it, just to ask how he did it. He’s that amusing.
The Junior Bender series of books is based in Los Angeles and captures the vibration of southern California precisely. If you’ve ever found yourself missing the place, you might want to pick up one of Hallinan’s books for a cure. Hallinan lasers in on defining characteristics, and picks up those things we thought we’d fixed with botox, or managed to hide with designer advice. He is brilliant at describing environments, in this case an old art deco apartment building with a view of the city purchased by crooked Koreans. Crumbling and unkempt on the outside, it is gloriously restored on the inside, with secret escapes and hidden garages, just perfect for hiding ill-gotten gains or for a man on the run.
Junior has a code of ethics that is not taught in any religion, but like many southern Californians, is just something he created out of whole cloth and “evolved” into. But we like this code, just as we like him. He is a thief, yes, but his heart is in the right place. Everyone wants his help at some time or another, even the cops, and if they don’t, well, mostly they want to lock him up or kill him. Which keeps Junior on his toes.
Junior has a family, and in this episode, his thirteen-year-old daughter, Rina, shows she is growing up into someone he can admire. Do I need to say she has computer skills that put her father to shame? And while she is not old enough to have a boyfriend, she has a friend that is a boy who is as special and interesting as everyone else in the family. We yearn to see more of him, and watch him grow.
Hallinan writes crime novels that defy the type. One can imagine finding a sprung-binding massmarket paperback of his with its delicious, distinctive single-color cover and woodcut silhouettes and opening to the first page…only hours later surfacing to reflect that one had found gold.
You can buy this book here: Tweet