Brant Randall & Bruce Cook,
Tommy Gun Tango
(Capital Crime Press, 2009)

A while back, my review of Brant Randall's novel Blood Harvest was posted here. That story revolved around a small town in rural Massachusetts back in 1929. The book was written in first-person, but each successive chapter switched characters such that you saw the story evolve through many eyes. Blood Harvest is a murder mystery/dark comedy. Now, three of the characters -- Marshal Lawe, Jackie Sue and Gladys -- are back in Tommy Gun Tango, which Brant co-wrote with Bruce Cook. The multi-first-person aspect angle is maintained and several new characters join the roster.

If you read Blood Harvest, you would remember that Jackie Sue was a young girl who possessed the body of a woman. Her looks were only exceeded by her ambitions. She didn't care that she was the cause of all the trouble that started the prior novel. She only knew she had to make it to Hollywood where she could gain the fame and fortunate she deserved. So, by the time Tommy Gun Tango starts a few years later, Jackie Sue is well entrenched in the movie business in California. She might be where she wants to be, but she isn't the star she expected.

Glady's was the owner of a small restaurant in the prior novel. She was surrounded by the KKK and had a secret to hide. Despite her white appearance, she was actually "high-yellow." But racism isn't what chased her out of town. When the Great Depression hit and folks lost their jobs left and right, it was not surprising Gladys could not pay her bills. When she lost her livelihood, she headed to Los Angeles to move in with her aunt and start over.

Lawe was the marshal that investigated the multiple murders that took place in Blood Harvest. Unfortunately, he too was a victim of the Great Depression and was soon out of work. He decided to follow his love, Gladys, to California. He hasn't seen her in a long time, but hopes to find her and restart where they left off. Fortunately, they kept in touch so he knows well enough how to find her. Along his drive across the country, he picks up an interesting Irish thug named Aloysius, who becomes a central part in the story.

Like the first novel, there is more than murder and mayhem in this one. Instead of the KKK, we now have the Hollywood elite and a corrupt police force. Readers go on a wild ride as Peggy Sue and Aloysius work their cons. Gladys deals with more race issues than she did back East. She also runs into gender bias. But then, this was a time when men saw themselves as being above women. Lawe discovers the underside of Hollywood as he works security for the movie industry. Whereas he once upheld the law, he now bends it as necessary. On top of that, he pursues Gladys's hand in marriage, not realizing she isn't as white as he is. Is love stronger than race?

According to the back cover of the book, Brant Randall was at one time a physics and math professor at Northrup University. He has also taught "Theology of the Horror Film" at Woodbury University and has a Ph.D. in communications. Co-author Bruce Cook has been a writer/producer/director on several films and has written a number of screenplays. (See my review of his novel Philippine Fever.) If you read my reviews of the books written by these authors, you will find a link between them that you might find interesting.

I was happy to revisit several of the characters from Blood Harvest. The writing style is still witty. The books both read quickly and are full of dark humor. I feel the stories are more slanted towards the male reader, but could be wrong. If I had one issue with Tommy Gun Tango it would be that it simply ended by running out of pages. I can only guess that at least Gladys and Lawe will be back again. And I certainly wouldn't complain about that!

review by
Wil Owen

21 November 2009

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