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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“Fun & Games” by Duane Swierczynski (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Order “Fun & GamesHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Severance Package

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Duane Swierczynski is the author of several crime thrillers, many of which have been optioned for film adaptation, including The Blonde and Severance Package. He has also written six non-fiction books; is a regular writer for several Marvel Comics series (Cable, Punisher, Immortal Iron Fist, Werewolf By Night); and has collaborated with CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker on the bestselling Level 26 series of “digi-novels”.

PLOT SUMMARY: Languishing in self-imposed exile because of what happened three years earlier, ex-cop Charlie Hardie has become a glorified house sitter. His latest gig comes replete with an illegally squatting B-movie actress who rants about someone trying to killer her.

Unfortunately, it’s the real deal and Hardie suddenly finds himself squared off against people who specialize in making deaths look like accidents. It’s nothing personal—the girl just happens to be the next name on their list. For Hardie, though, it’s intensely personal. He’s not about to let more innocent people die. Not on his watch...

CLASSIFICATION: If Charlie Huston, Dean Koontz, Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie were to join forces one day and write a contemporary, pulp-influenced crime thriller set in Hollywood, it would look a little something like Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games...

FORMAT/INFO: Fun & Games is 304 pages long divided over thirty-four numbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person, mostly via the protagonist Charlie Hardie, but the narrative also ricochets between several other POVs, including actress Lane Madden, Factboy, O’Neal and Mann. Fun & Games wraps up some of the book’s major points, but ends on a minor cliffhanger and is the first book in a trilogy. Hell & Gone (Book 2) is scheduled for publication on October 31, 2011, while Point & Shoot (Book 3) will be released in March 2012.

June 20, 2011 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of Fun & Games via Mulholland Books. The UK version (see below) will be published on June 23, 2011 via Mulholland UK.

ANALYSIS: Duane Swierczynski’s novels are tailor-made for the big screen and the author’s latest, Fun & Games, is no exception. Like his previous efforts, Fun & Games is a massively entertaining thrill ride highlighted by crisp prose, breakneck pacing, smart plotting and memorable characters.

Characters like the protagonist Charlie Hardie, a former consultant for the Philadelphia Police Department-turned-housesitter and drunkard, who believes his life has become a sort of purgatory due to tragic events three years earlier. A belief that fuels his actions when he finds himself in a unique situation to atone for his sins, which includes saving the life of B-list starlet Lane Madden.

Opposing Hardie in his quest for redemption are “the Accident People”, a highly trained secret organization who specialize in cleaning up messes, creating accidental deaths and writing history without leaving behind any evidence of the “hand behind the act”. Backed by “protection at the highest levels”, unlimited resources, and cool gadgets—a weaponized spray that can kill a person in minutes, an injectable heart attack pen, etc.—the Accident People are extremely dangerous, but they’ve never met anyone quite like Charlie Hardie.

Story-wise, Fun & Games can be a bit formulaic in the way it handles Lane & Charlie’s haunted pasts, but inventive scenarios, stylish action & violence, and well-executed plot twists involving serial killers Philip & Jane Kindred and a true-crime reality show, more than make up for any of the book’s familiar elements. Occasionally the novel borders on the impossible, like the number of times Hardie manages to avoid death living up to his nickname, “Unkillable Chuck”, or the numerous coincidences that pop up in the book, but Fun & Games doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is evidenced by interesting facts sprinkled throughout the novel—Number of accidental suffocations per year: 3,300—and dozens of quotes & references to action movies, Hollywood and filmmaking like the Accident People referring to Lane Madden’s death as a ‘production’ and ‘narrative’.

Negatively, I could complain about the novel’s cliffhanger and having to wait for the sequels, but that would be nitpicking. In all honesty, Fun & Games is a nearly flawless novel, led by Duane Swierczynski’s skillful writing, a badass protagonist that readers can really root for, and insanely cool concepts like the Accident People. In short, Fun & Games is a ridiculously fun start to Duane Swierczynski’s exciting new trilogy...

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