Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Beat by Stephen Jay Schwartz





A recovering alcoholic works the program, stays away from bars, and avoids the liquor aisle at Vons.  A recovering junky does the steps and doesn't  visit whatever skeevy places a person goes to get heroin.  A shopaholic cuts up the credit cards and stays away from the mall.  But how does a sex addict avoid sex?  It's everywhere.  It's in literature (yes I said yes I will Yes), it's in advertising (cars are sexy, hamburgers are sexy, beer is sexy), it's what TV is all about.  If you're married or in a relationship it's kind of expected of you.  It's the fucking life force, after all.  So what do you do if you're addicted to it?  How the hell can you avoid sex?  More importantly, how can you develop a healthy relationship with sex, so that you can be a reasonably normal person?  These are questions that LAPD homicide detective Hayden Glass has been grappling with for some time. His sex addiction ruined his marriage and has put his career in jeopardy more than once.  He's been through the twelve steps, all of them, and gotten that 90 day chip…more than once.  He's done the work, he's learned the lingo (triggers, acting out, inner, middle, and outer circles).  He's even named his addiction--Rufus. 

The epically violent finale of Boulevard, Glass's first outing, left him shattered but, for the first time in his life, without shame.  As Beat opens Glass, on medical leave from the LAPD, is spiraling downward, again, fighting his demons--alone, as usual--and trying not to listen as Rufus whispers in his ear.  He rationalizes: since the pursuit and the contact are what get him off, why not try internet porn? It's not his thing, so it's not really like succumbing to the addiction. It's more of a balm.  You know, like methadone, for a heroin addict.  Quickly, though, Glass discovers that as the whole methadone-for-heroin thing didn't really work out, since all it did was substitute one addiction for another, neither will his self-medicating substitution of one obsessive and destructive behavior for another work. There can be, he learns, contact even on the internet, and, obsessive that he is, Glass begins to interact with a girl named Cora.  First he limits contact to online, but in time that's not enough, and he works his way through his savings and then begins borrowing money to travel up to San Francisco to meet her in person.  Once every two weeks.  Once a week.  Several times a week.

Sometimes you just want to hit Hayden Glass upside the head.  

But his obsessiveness and his passion are also what make Glass a good cop and a dogged investigator, qualities he will be forced to call upon when a trip to San Francisco to see Cora turns into a violent encounter with the Russian mob.  Cora is kidnapped, Glass is shot, and the chase is on.   As he races to find Cora before it's too late Hayden Glass is plunged deep into a sordid world of sex slaves--many of them children--and smack up against nasty police corruption.  He's tested physically and psychologically, and he learns, once again, "how far one could fall before oblivion."  Hayden falls, but there will be no oblivion for him.  He must face not only his own addiction, but confront head on how directly his feeding that addiction keeps  human trafficking for slaves a viable industry.

Beat, like its predecessor Boulevard, is a dark, often bleak, exploration of the human condition.  Neither the city nor our hero's own psyche are very pretty places.  But where there's humanity there's hope, and in Beat that hope comes in the form of a good woman (and some good dogs).  Hayden learns that Medical Examiner Abbey Reed has moved up to San Francisco from Los Angeles after the events of the previous year, in a quest for peace and a fresh start.  Abbey assists Hayden on the case, and helps him along on his own search for peace.

The action in Beat is relentless and brutal.  The writing is stark and evocative.  You will care about these characters and you will want more.

IF THIS TITLE INTERESTS YOU...
If you haven't already read Boulevard, you really should.  While Beat works well as a stand-alone, much more insight is gained into Hayden Glass and what drives him if you've read the first novel.

Then please do a little legwork and seek out the criminally out of print La-La Land books of Robert Campbell.  The first is The Wizard of La-La Land, although it's not necessary to read  them in order.  Campbell's L.A. is gritty and highly stylized; his characters are grifters and child prostitutes and transvestites, his writing gripping and powerful.

 

Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion. 

1 comment:

Brooke Reviews said...

These sound like interesting books, not a genre I jump into very often, but I'll have to look into getting a copy :) Great review!