Wednesday 2 October 2019



Jeff Nichols - a man strong of conviction but weak of character - is fresh out of the Don Jail, looking for work - any kind of work - and a way back into Ann Ryan's good graces. She waited for his return from prison but is quickly running short on patience. An ex-inmate and friend gets Jeff a job at Ted Bracey's used car lot, selling cars for commission only. But it's not enough to keep him and Ann afloat in mid-80s Toronto, and the lure of easy money soon gets Jeff involved in smuggling guns from upstate New York.

With that sweet Poughkeepsie cash, now he can keep his promises to Ann; he even buys them a house, but conceals the source of the money. As Jeff gets in deeper and deeper, everyone around him learns how many rules he's willing to bend and just how far he'll go to get on the fast track to riches. That he's a guy who doesn't let lessons from past mistakes get in the way of a good score.

Another top read from Canadian author, Dietrich Kalteis - an enjoyable holiday read with the book in one hand and a beer in the other on a hot beach in Malta.

Toronto, gang wars, a used car lot, a front for gun smuggling across the border, an impatient money lender siccing his heavies on the owner and employees of the lot, which causes a few issues for Jeff Nichols, our ex-con main character.

Torture, amputation, messages, employment prospects, romance, a hair restorer side business, an Elvis impersonator, home-making, house buying, drive by shoot ups, boat trips, parties, confrontations, kidnap, etc etc. It's a busy book with a lot going on and another one where our main characters operate on the shady side of the tracks, some, not all of the time. There's more money to be made that way and besides rehabilitation isn't always an option for ex-cons.

I'm a bit fuzzy on all the minor details regarding who did what to whom. I read the book over a month ago, but there's no doubting my overall enjoyment.

Setting - Toronto - tick

Pace - never hurried, but it moves along at a decent clip. A to B to C and before you know it Z - tick

Characters - major/minor - never less than interesting - each with their own agenda - tick

Jeff and his girl Ann want the same thing - maybe. A future together. A house. A cause of friction is how they are going to get there. Ann is suspicious of Jeff's job and wants him on the straight and narrow. Jeff knows his options are limited and will duck and dive and do whatever to make it happen. Tension, distrust, suspicion, pressures all add to Jeff's woes.

Plot - one man's efforts to get by and get on and ultimately survive against a back drop of gun running, illegal money lending, used car sales and gang warfare. My kind of story - tick

Length - 280 pages - perfect - tick

Resolution - satisfying - tick

Overall - 4.5/5

Dietrich Kalteis has been enjoyed a few times before......
Ride the Lightning
The Deadbeat Club
Zero Avenue

......and is a firm favourite of mine. I'm looking forward to his latest one which drops soon - Call Down the Thunder

Read - September, 2019
Published - 2018
Page count - 280
Source - review copy from Net Galley, subsequently purchased
Format - paperback


  1. Sounds like a good read, Col, and I'm glad to hear it. And I think the used car business can work well as the backdrop for this sort of story. And for some reason, my eye was drawn to the words 'Elvis impersonator.' Now I'm curious how that fits in... In any case, glad you enjoyed this so well.

    1. Thanks Margot. Elvis or an impersonator popping up is always a good sign!

  2. Yet another author I really ought to read . . .

    1. I do like his work. Everyone should try at least one IMO.

  3. Having recently read Kalteis’ terrific ZERO AVENUE, I am up for anything he has written.

    1. I don't think I've read a bad book from him yet.