What. The. Hell?
Unable to find the books I'd already borrowed (One Jess Walter, one Andrew Taylor (whom I've never read)) I had to dash to the library and find something else. Had to. Or work is UNBEARABLE. So luckily there was another Jess Walter, since I had my heart set on him. Citizen Vince (ha ha, just automatically typed Kane and had to change it...) is a novel just waiting to be filmed, in which case it'll be just another gangster film, a genre that bores me. I was even casting it in my mind, with actors from the Sopranos. Bo-o-oo-ring. Thank God I read it anyway.
It's 1980. Vince Camden lives in Spokane. We quickly understand that he isn't originally from there - Vince is in the Witness Protection Programme and has left his old N.Y. small-time gangster life behind him. Except he hasn't: he does work as a baker, but runs a credit card scam and sells marijuana on the side. One day he gets his voter registration card in the post. Then it suddenly hits him that he really was given a new life when he joined the WPP. Since he turned to crime as a child he's never been eligible to vote, but in this new life he can. It's Reagan's first presidential election, with President Carter trying to manage the US hostage situation in Iran. Vince becomes a little obsessed with this - he follows the debates, tries to talk politics with his gambling friends. Out of the blue, someone from the old life appears to show up in Spokane to get rid of Vince. And in the end Vince has to choose between being the new guy, on the voter registration card, or stay the same small-time gangster.
It's quite a good book this. Walter has a definite flair. I love how Detective Alan Dupree, whom we met in Over Tumbled Graves as an older, disillusioned mentor cop, here is a young rookie. I even put up with the gangster angle - much easier in literature than in films! Having the story set to the background of the election is a great idea, especially how being allowed to vote really affects Vince. I suppose it's a bit moral, but in a good way.
There's also a really interesting middle bit, where part of the story is about what Carter and Reagan are thinking and going through just a few days before the Big Day. I'm still pondering to myself why he put that in. Cool.