Monday, February 16, 2009

Bitchin' Snitch


Snitching is one of those oft-maligned professions that just doesn't get a fair shake in fiction. Most of the time, just the mantle of 'snitch' seems to be all the development these characters need. We read it or hear it and immediately we know who we're supposed to conjure - sleazy, weak-willed, turncoats of dubious moral stripe and questionable hygiene. Well, not no more. Christopher Goffard's debut novel Snitch Jacket places us cozily, (uncomfortably so), into the shoes of Benny, a sleazy, weak-willed, turncoat of dubious moral stripe and questionable hygiene, (as attested to by his wife - Use a Q-tip, Benny!) and dares us to uh, like him. Benny rationalizes his snitching so he can sleep nights, but when he gets caught between his two idols, Gus "Mad Dog" Miller, a burly, barfly, badass with some great Nam stories and the slick undercover narco who turned Benny out, he's faced with some hard choices. The book is broken into parts, shifting in tone and POV perhaps too often. It's too clever by just that much and the plot wraps around itself unnecessarily, but the portraits of Benny and Gus are rich, hilarious and surprisingly heart felt. I'm gonna go out on a pretty sturdy looking limb and call it the best book about a snitch since The Friends of Eddie Coyle and probably destined for a similar cult in years to come. Friends, btw was made into a pretty decent film starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle and directed by Peter Yates, (Bullitt, Mother, Jugs and Speed), but I don't think it's ever seen the light of DVD. Write your congressperson about this. SJ is available in paperback, but if you can afford a hardcover, you'll get your money's worth out of the great jacket art, (sadly changed for the trade paper release). Of course, "the snitch" may soon have a more honored place in pop-culture thanks to Andre Royo's incredible and humane turn as Bubbles, on The Wire, but till that time, enjoy Snitch Jacket while it's still a novelty.

6 comments:

Gordon Harries said...

The filmic version of ‘Eddie Coyle’ (which might be my favorite crime novel. It’s so, so good and explores many of the same themes that ’The Wire’ later would, some thirty plus years before the show aired .) was a direct influence on ‘Out of Sight’, according to Soderbugh’s commentary.

So everything does come back to The Limey!

jedidiah ayres said...

Is Eddie Coyle on DVD in Britain?

Paul Brazill said...

Eddie Coyle is a great film. BBC2 , Sunday night,,,ah, lovely....

gregbardsley said...

I finally got to see a bunch os episodes of The Wire,and was really impressed with Andre Royo. ... Snitches are good drama.

Keith Rawson said...

Eddie Coyle is my favorite crime novel of all time, and snitch jacket was awesome! funny through and through

Gordon Harries said...

Jed: Sorry, I didn’t see this.

No, it’s not available on DVD (but it’s sometimes shown on late night TV, which is how I caught it.) the last time I checked, you could download if from Itunes US for about ten dolla.

Keith: it is pretty awesome and makes pretty much the same argument as THE WIRE, just forty years before.