No Beast So Fierce by Edward Bunker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When Max Dembo gets paroled after eight years in the joint, he's starting at square one. With no money and no job, how will he avoid falling back into his old habits?
As a white collar, law-abiding citizen, prison has always held a bit of mystique for me. I enjoyed The Animal Factory enough to snap this up when it showed up in my BookGorilla email on the cheap.
If I ever had any doubts about the ineffectiveness of the American prison system, they would have been shattered by this. Max is put back on the street with a suit ten years out of fashion and thirty bucks and expected to make something of himself. When no one will hire him, what other choice does he have but to turn to a life of crime?
Bunker's no Chandler but his writing gets the job done. I was reminded of Richard Stark's Parker at times. While he wasn't a complete asshole, Max wasn't a nice person when the chips were down. He did live by a certain criminal code, though, making him a much more complex character than I originally thought. The self-destructive nature of some of the characters also made me think of Jim Thompson and his happy hell storms.
The capers were well done, including the inevitable one where the wheels come off. There were some good twists and I didn't see the ending going down like that. I almost wish I'd skipped the epilogue, though.
While I didn't enjoy it as much as The Animal Factory, No Beast So Fierce was definitely worth a read. Three out of five stars.
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