Beware the man in the Canadian tuxedo, because he can write like hell. That man is Dietrich Kalteis, and his name should rightfully be changed to Vancouver Dutch the way he carries on Elmore Leonard’s spirit and legacy with his recently released sophomore novel from ECW Press, The Deadbeat Club. I’m super excited to review this book for Crime Syndicate, because as far as I’m concerned it’s a breakout effort from a rising star in Canadian crime fiction, and one of the best books I read this year. Seriously.
I first met Dietrich at Bouchercon, where I ended up hanging out with him and a few other Canadian crime fiction writers for most of the weekend. The stereotype about Canadians proved true, as they were all some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Dietrich is a soft-spoken, friendly guy. And yes, he was properly attired in denim top and bottom all weekend long, which is just plain badass. He’s also one hell of a crime writer, as I soon discovered.
In The Deadbeat Club, generational Whistler BC primo dope grower Grey Stevens finds himself caught smack in the middle of a turf war between rival gangs that both have their eyes on his coveted Eight Miles High cannabis strain. Stevens and his cast of hippish, outcast characters move from shenanigan to shenanigan as the plot unfolds, trying throughout to both cover their asses, and preserve their small street distribution ring, including Grey’s own off-the-grid grow houses.
On their trail are a couple of head-busting detectives up from Vancouver, a sexually-obsessed sociopath named Travis Rainey with his crime boss Bumpy Rosco’s idiot meathead son Nick Rosco in tow, and the entire Indo Army, who are as interested in stomping out Bumpy Rosco’s syndicate as they are in locking down Grey’s supply.
Lot’s of campy mayhem ensues, with spiked drinks, busted heads, flash mobs (yes, flash mobs), and explosions. The narrative arc takes a curb-stomping pace, yet never feels like it’s in a rush. To me, that speaks to Kalteis’s great sense of plotting and pace, not to mention his grasp of setting and character. At times funny, at other times thrilling and sexy, The Deadbeat Club has everything you could want in a crime book.
One of the most original aspects of Kalteis’s book is that it seems to reinterpret aspects of American rural noir into something both familiar and unique, which I would call Canadian rural noir. I’ll admit I’m not as up-to-date on my Canadian crime writers as I should be, but the approach felt both familiar and fresh, what my graduate school instructors would have called “uniquely familiar.”
I can think of no higher praise, so I’ll leave it at that. Trust me when I tell you that you’re going to want to pick up and read this book, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself unable to put it down until it’s spent, because that’s exactly what happened to me. Pick up a copy of The Deadbeat Club here, and find Dietrich online at http://dietrichkalteis.blogspot.com/.
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