Crime-On-Crime Review Series #23: Zero Avenue, by Dietrich Kalteis

Y’all… This book…

I’ve discussed Dietrich Kalteis’s writing before several times here on the blog. And I won’t bore you with the old cliché about writers getting better with every single book.

That’s not the case here at all.

But don’t take that the wrong way. What I mean to say is this.

Dietrich Kalteis’s latest crime novel, Zero Avenue, is another installment on the same fan-fucking-tastic level that his fans have come to expect from him over the course of his five novels.

I mean, shouldn’t a writer have a bad book every now and again?

Apparently not.

Which is my way of saying that I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It has the rare perfect blend of era, style and ambiance combined with dialog so spot on that you hear the voices in your head.

Zero Avenue centers on Frankie Del Rey, a 1970’s up-and-coming Vancouver punk rock singer who makes a little bread on the side by running drugs for local drug lord Marty Sayles.

It doesn’t take long before Frankie and her well-meaning stable of flunky friends get sideways of Sayles and his henchmen. The book’s pulsating plot involves stolen cornfield dope, shredding guitar licks, and one very bad-ass catapult.

Yes, you heard me correctly. There’s a fucking catapult in the book. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

The plot’s stakes rise with every page as Frankie tries to both work her way out of a jam and work her way into punk rock stardom with her band Waves of Nausea.

If that doesn’t sound awesome, then you might want to get your pulse checked.

But what’s truly great about this book is the sheer sense of immersion it provides. You will absolutely feel like you’re in 1979 Vancouver, known affectionately then as “No Fun City.” You’ll almost be able to smell the stale beer, cigarettes and burning hash.

The book provides excellent reference to that era’s punk rock scene throughout. Kalteis’s punchy style combines a perfect hodgepodge of aggressive song lyrics and pull-top cans of beer.

There’s also a random reference thrown in to a club promoter in California who sounds an awful lot like one of my favorite current crime fiction writers in his past life (You’ll have to unravel that one for yourself).

I keep saying that sooner or later American crime fiction readers are going to realize Vancouver has some of the very best working crime writers in the world.

Don’t believe me? Pick up this book. I bet you won’t put it down until you run out of pages.

For lack of better words, I’ll pay this book the highest compliment I can pay any novel.

I wish it was mine.

Pick up Zero Avenue here.

Find Dietrich Kalteis online here.