"If you like your crime hard and fast, Kalteis is for you." - The Globe and Mail
Set to the cranking beat and amphetamine buzz of Vancouver's early punk scene, Zero Avenue follows Frankie Del Rey, a talented and rising punk star who runs just enough dope on the side to pay the bills and keep her band, Waves of Nausea, together. The trouble is she's running it for Marty Sayles, a powerful drug dealer who controls the Eastside with a fist.
When Frankie strikes up a relationship with Johnny Falco, the owner of one of the only Vancouver clubs willing to give punk a chance, she finds out he's having his own money problems just keeping Falco's Nest open. Desperate to keep his club, Johnny raids one of the pot fields Marty Sayles has growing out past Surrey, along Zero Avenue on the U.S. border. He gets away with a pickup load and pays back everybody he owes. Arnie Binz, bass player for Waves of Nausea, finds out about it and decides that was easy enough. But he gets caught by Marty's crew.
Johnny and Frankie set out to find the missing Arnie, but Marty Sayles is pissed and looking for who ripped off his other field - a trail that leads to Johnny and Frankie.
Another absolute belter from Canadian author Dietrich Kalteis. Hands up, I’ll confess I’m a massive fan. This is the fourth of his five published books that I’ve read and I’d be happy to pick any of them up and blast through them again.
Zero Avenue has a real energy and vibrancy that leaps from the pages. Johnny Falco runs a struggling bar. Despite the packed crowds for his music nights, the figures don’t add up. Outgoings exceed income and he’s slowly sinking. Owing rent to Marty Sayles, a local businessman and drug dealer is problematic, especially as he has a new lieutenant, Zeke Chamas who’s keen to enhance his position in the Sayles organisation. Intimidation and the breaking of a few heads the way to go.
Frankie Del Rey is well into her music. Guitarist and lead vocalist with Waves of Nausea, she’ll run drugs for Sayles if it helps her band stay in the game, with the financing of an EP her immediate goal. She’s not sure she want to go as far as sleeping with sleazeball Marty to keep the gig as a delivery girl, but it’s difficult keeping him at arm’s length.
A falling out with Marty - who wouldn’t be annoyed at him copping some oral in Falco’s dingy bog (think Trainspotting for a comparison) when they were set on a dinner date - jeopardises her second job. With Johnny privy to some information on where Sayles has one of his cannabis growing fields, a solution may be at hand. Raid the field, steal the drugs, sell them and buy some time paying Marty back with the cash gained from his own crop. Simple.
Plenty of attitude on show all-round, fantastic setting with the punk-rock back-drop, a simple crime with consequences for all involved. And a touch of romance.
I don’t think there was a dull sentence or paragraph in the book, pedal to metal, a flat-out adrenaline fuelled read. I could hear the pounding music in my head as I raced through it. I loved the characters, I loved the setting, Vancouver and the late 70s. It reminded me of my youth – I loved the music, but never embraced the fashion – too much of a wimp to rebel I guess. Great dialogue and humour.
5 from 5
Zero Avenue is released tomorrow - buy it!
His other works are
Ride the Lightning thoughts here
The Deadbeat Club thoughts here
Triggerfish thoughts here
House of Blazes - unread as yet.
Read in September, 2017
Published – 2017
Page count – 236
Source – review copy from ECW Press (thanks Susannah) (NET GALLEY also)
Format – paperback ARC