King of Methlehem – Book Review

Most novelists, even successful ones have day jobs. This is just an economic fact. If you’re a resident of Western Washington, you’re probably at least remotely familiar with the name Mark Lindquist, but there’s a good chance that you don’t know him from his novels. You know him as a Pierce County Prosecutor. Just last night he was on the local news prosecuting someone who killed three-year-old. While his actions in the court room are admirable, that’s just his day job. When he’s not prosecuting criminals, Mark Lindquist is a novelist and after reading his latest book, ‘King of Methlehem’, I’m happy to report he’s a good one.

As you’ve probably guessed by the title, ‘King of Methlehem’ hangs its plot around the significant problem of meth amphetamine use and the damage it does. This problem is personified in Howard Shultz, a Tweeker with an obsession for cooking up meth subsidized by identity theft scams. The mentality of a hardcore meth user and cook is so well captured in ‘King of Methlehem’ that if Mark Lindquist were anyone else, you’d ask him how long he had been on it.

Pursuing Howard is Tacoma Police Detective Wyatt James. From the beginning, James is almost as addicted to finding Howard as Howard is addicted to meth. The dialog is quick and fun. You can tell that Lindquist used to write screenplays. The whole thing is written in present tense which gives it a feeling of urgency.

Aiding Detective James is his friend and prosecutor, Mike. While Wyatt is the cowboy, Mike is the guy who tries to keep Wyatt grounded. When Mike gets going in the court room, you can really see Lindquist’s day job influencing his writing. You get the feeling Mike’s frustration echoes his own.

If you’re a Tacoma native, you’re going to feel right at home with ‘King of Methlehem’ . Lindquist uses real bars, businesses, streets, people, and history. In fact, there are times when I think he overdoes it. In one chapter where two characters are driving down Tacoma’s 6th Ave., he manages to mention seven businesses on one page.  So while the book is seasoned with local color, I’d have to say sometimes it’s ‘over-seasoned’. This is as close as I can come to a criticism of ‘King of Methlehem’.

Ultimately, if you’re a fan of crime fiction, and definitely if you’re a local, ‘King of Methlehem’ is well worth your time. It’s like a local version of The Wire. And as anyone who knows how I feel about The Wire, that’s high praise indeed. I look forward to his next book and may check out his other books.

– Jack Cameron


Last Job

I just bought a box set of film noir DVDs and that coupled with reading that bank robbery book, made me think of an old short fiction piece I did a couple years ago. Enjoy.

Last Job

By Jack Cameron

It’s not enough. One more job. That’s what the rookies say. The say it to make them feel like this isn’t a way of life. It’s not like the movies. You see Al Pacino or DeNiro saying how they’re gonna do one more job and that’s it and then that’s the job that nails them. It’s not like that. Because every job is the last job.

A guy I know tells me about a sweet deal. Low risk. Low security. High reward. Un-fucking-heard of money. We’re talking instant retirement. But I know better. Jobs like that are like great sex. Once just isn’t enough. And like great sex, it’s almost impossible to turn down.

Setting up the crew is cake. A job like this for a guy like that and things just fall together. Only one hitch; the boss wants his son on the crew. He’s young and cocky, but he’s turns out to be as quick as I’ve ever seen anyone. Two weeks of planning and we’re ready. It’s a smash and grab job. We hit the armored car outside a grocery store of all things. The kid fakes a fainting spell right in front of one of the guards. The guard is momentarily confused but a moment is all the kid needs. Before the guard knows what happened, the kid has his gun. He gives out a smile as the rest of us hit the truck. No one gets hurt and we’re done in under two minutes. It’s a professional job all the way.

We drive a stolen car three blocks into an alley and switch vehicles. That’s when it all goes wrong. I hear the shot before I feel it. And I get this ‘Oh Shit!’ feeling as I look for the cop cars. The feeling gets worse when I don’t see any. Then I see the blood. A lot of people think that you fall down when you’re shot, but that’s a psychological thing. People fall down because they think they are supposed to. Simple physics will tell you that something as small as a bullet can’t knock a man down. And so I’m standing there like an idiot with a gut wound in the middle of the alley.

The gunfire continues. I walk two steps before my body stops working. I lean against a telephone pole and I suddenly realize I can’t see. I hear the car start and I know my crew is dead and that fucking kid is driving off with our money. I hear him laugh. And I laugh too. He thinks this is it. He thinks he’s made the Mother Load. And I laugh harder because I know….it’s not enough.