bang-bang

BOOK REVIEW: Bang Bang

With the deluge of so-called urban fiction in the last few years, it is refreshing to remember that there is still a genre called crime writing out there, and that it can take place in the modern environment – replete with familiar nods to Hip-Hop, pop culture, and everyday city life.Thus it is reminiscent of ghetto lit, but with more of a nod to classic crime writers like Chester Himes or screenwriters like Quentin Tarantino, just not divorced from Hip-Hop and junk culture strewn sidewalks.  Theo Gangi writes Bang Bang (Kensington) directly from 2000s New York, and offers up page-turning action that uses shrewd plotting to intertwine stick-up kids, Albanian mobsters, psychotherapists, and Columbia students, with jaw dropping violence thrown in at just the right times.  None of this to say that he is a Tarantino or a Himes (or a Ghostface Killah for that matter), but the book is a strong and fast paced debut regardless.The protagonist of Bang Bang is Izzy, an aging stick-up kid with some definite Nas “Second Childhood” issues.  Essentially, he falls out with his partner and some Albanian gangsters over a jux gone awry, and from that point, it’s on. Some of the most memorable and cinematic scenes are Mal, Izzy’s disgruntled man, chasing him around in a jacked, beat-up taxi cab with the driver trapped in the trunk, Izzy in either a duplicitous repair van or a stolen Navigator.As for the Albanian mafia, Italians should be warned that stereotypical Eastern European gangsters are quickly replacing stereotypical Sicilians in the imagination of crime scribes.  They wear track suits and throw racial slurs around casually so not much is different, other than that they also wear Jordans and call each other “n***a” from time to time, with little sense of irony.  They also bring heavy heat, muscle, and old world codes with them, meaning Izzy has his trigger finger working overtime and Mal has to lay the game on twice as thick, in order that they both should live and eventually have their climactic show down with each other.Gangi is clever at bringing together characters that are at first unrelated, and he also imbues them with a relative amount of depth and pathos.  Thankfully, this is done without pretension and characters appear fashioned from autobiography and real life experience.  He makes settings vivid, off-beat, and relevant as well; at first one might think, yes, this player’s ball is fun but why, only to find that it helps obscure a fleeing Izzy and family after a shootout.  New Yorkers will appreciate a lot of the everyday settings turned into dramatic backdrops (from Jackson Heights to Washington Heights) and he even throws in that there are desperate Barnard girls to be had around 116th Street (thanks for the tip).  There are some superfluous details—Izzy’s illegitimate son, who works in finance, at a wake on mushrooms with his boss, for example—but Gangi’s talent for pulp and action pull the story back from any meandering tendencies. As for the violence, there is a least one particular murder that guarantees an exclamation from the reader, and this speaks to Gangi’s skill at building suspense and then hurling surprises.Bang Bang and its Young Buck/Tarantino derived title, as referenced in the story itself, won’t change the world.  However, it achieves the genre specific trick of combining the mundane and believable aspects of everyday life with extreme violence and fun, unbelievable action, laid out in twists and turns.  It is perhaps best read right in New York, but has the potential to make anyone, anywhere, who lets his or her guard down, forget where he or she is for a moment and escape into its not unfamiliar world.

blog comments powered by Disqus