Tuesday 8 January 2019

TOM PITTS -101 (2018)


On the cusp of pot legalization in California, Jerry runs afoul of some San Francisco bikers in the marijuana game. He flees straight up Highway 101 to Humboldt County to hide out deep in the hills at Vic’s, a reclusive pot farmer and old pal of his tough-as-nails mother. But trouble finds Jerry no matter where he goes and soon the bikers, a pair of stone killers, and a Russian weed tycoon named Vlad the Inhaler are all hot on Jerry’s trail. 

Fallout from the unfolding chaos piques the interest of SFPD detective, Roland Mackie, when he learns Jerry’s host, Vic, is somehow involved. It opens a twenty-year-old wound, an unsolved case called the Fulton Street Massacre, and Mackie is willing to do whatever it takes to get a pair of cuffs on the elusive Vic. 

When Jerry and his protectors are chased off the mountain and back down the 101 to an inevitable showdown back in the Bay, he learns Vic is much more than his host, he’s a mentor, his mother’s hero, and the toughest man he’s ever met. 

With an unforgettable cast of characters and an action-packed plot, 101 is a wild ride through Northern California’s “emerald triangle.” 

Another wild ride indeed...... bikers, Russian mobsters, a pot shop rip-off, a manipulative girlfriend, a feckless son, a concerned mother, a debt of honour, a chance of survival, a cannabis farm caretaker with a chequered past, a moral compass and someone who has just now painted a big red target on his back, a bothersome cop with a long memory and a couple of contract killers, trying to clean house.

Never less than interesting, 101 is a combustible mix of characters and motivations.

Jerry - son, boyfriend, reckless, naive, stealer of the cash, idiot

Vic - pot farmer, protector, living the low life since the Fulton Street Massacre, in debt to Barbara or so he feels

Ripper - Vic's friend and general gopher

Big Man - Vic's landlord/employer, connected to the bikers - the Dead BBs

Barbara - Jerry's mum, gutsy, determined, inextricably bonded with Vic after events of the past,

Piper - Jerry's girlfriend, step-daughter of the leader of the Dead BBs

Cardiff - imported Russian muscle/killer

Aaron - Cardiff's sidekick, allied to Dead BBs

Terry Naughton - top Humboldt biker

Dmitri - pot shop manager and theft victim

Vlad - Russian head honcho

Eric Tribban - Dead BB President, with a headstrong step-daughter

Roland Mackie - detective with a 20-year hard on for Vic

Tory Nagle - FBI, involved in a RICO case into the bikers

Ollie - biker, gopher and errand boy,

Meth Master Mike, Clean Man, Dandy Dan, Doughboy - window dressing characters each with a role to play

Robbery, a rip-off, a massaging of the figures, a heading for the hills and improbable sanctuary, a manhunt, a police investigation, a kidnapping for leverage, some hostile questioning, a shoot out or three, mistrust and conflict between the players - the Russians and their biker partners, which might play to Vic's advantage, a stakeout, a road trip, a return to the San Francisco and more bloodshed.

Violent, fast-paced, fresh, on-point, savvy, knowing, populated by an entertaining cast, a lot of whom become collateral damage as events play out. Pitts imbues even his peripheral characters with enough pep and zest for this reader to want to know more about them and spend longer in their company, even when they aren't especially attractive people.

Interesting locales - Humboldt county hillsides, the 101 and San Francisco, with a splash of Oakland thrown in.

Overall - a busy novel with never a dull moment, and a lot packed into a little (168 pages to my copy). Extremely satisfying and entertaining - my kind of book.

4.5 from 5

101 was my second dance with Tom Pitts after his fantastic American Static was enjoyed late 2017.

His earlier works - Piggyback, Hustle and Knuckleball still cry out to me from my TBR pile.

Tom Pitts has his website here.

Read in January 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 168
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF

Q+A with Tom Pitts - January 2018


  1. This does sound like an action-packed novel, Col. And you make an interesting point that it packs a lot in for not being a long book. I like the northern California setting for it, too. It's the right place, if that makes sense, for a story like this one. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Lots going on here Margot and lots for me to like and drool over. I'm a fan of a Northern California setting and I think all of Tom's books are based in and around San Francisco.

  2. Thanks to you, I've had Pitts in my sights for a while. My, what a long Dramatis Personae for such a short book!

    1. Indeed - quite a long cast, but memorable enough for me not to get them mixed up with each other. He's a master juggler - and I bet I've missed a few off regardless. I hope you find something of his to enjoy.

  3. Intriguing title and premise, Col, and to be able to carry off all those interesting characters couldn't have been a small feat.

    1. 101 refers to the highway connecting our plot locations. I'd like to drive it myself sometime! I hope you can get to Mr Pitts' work during 2019, Prashant.

  4. That's a lot of characters to keep track of! Glad you enjoyed, probably not for me.