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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Run
by Douglas E. Winter
Knopf/ $24/ 280 pp.
ISBN 0-375-40838-X

Review by Hank Wagner

Although Burdon Lane's job is somewhat out of the mainstream--he's a gun runner, trafficking in illegal firearms--his anxieties mirror those of many of his middle aged contemporaries: even when things seem to be going well, he harbors fears of being derailed, of having the life he's so carefully built slip through his fingers. Thus, he initially questions his business partners when they ask him to join them on a supposed "milk run?" to New York City. Despite his misgivings (the operation, involving two volatile street gangs, doesn't seem to require his presence), Lane agrees to participate, assured by his companions that nothing will go wrong.

But things do go wrong, and in spectacular fashion. As it turns out, the operation is a cover for the assassination of prominent civil rights leader Gideon Parks, gunned down during a political rally. Realizing that he is among those who have been left to take the fall for the crime, Lane runs for his life, vowing to get to the truth and punish those responsible. The remainder of the novel details his struggles to stay alive against formidable odds, as he uncovers the hidden subtext of his world, a place where nothing is as it seems, and alliances are broken and forged with alarming speed.

Winter's first novel is a bleak, yet strangely optimistic thriller, an accomplished performance that delves deep into the heart and mind of its main protagonist, a criminal whose brutal mores and ambitions mask his all too human vulnerabilities. Lane's first person narrative, blunt and terse, convincingly conveys the surprising depth and variety of his emotions: his matter-of-fact attitude toward his strange career, his love for his deceased mother, the passion he feels for his girlfriend, and the anger he feels at the duplicity he endures. It also creates a sense of immediacy, one that becomes more noticeable as the book hurtles towards its bloody but inevitable conclusion.

RUN seems to reflect the influence of several writers and filmmakers. Traces of Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, James Ellroy, Jim Carroll, William Goldman, Donald Goines, Quentin Tarantino and John Woo are evident, all filtered through Winter's unique sensibilities. As such, the book transcends those influences. Winter delivers an explosive tale of loyalty and betrayal, one which simultaneously honors and elevates the thriller genre Powerful, compelling, and expertly crafted, Run is a singular accomplishment, almost certain to land Winter on the short list for this year's Edgar Awards. We're talking serious crime fiction here folks, the kind that grabs you and doesn't let go. Ignore it at your own peril. -- Hank Wagner

Guest reviewer Hank Wagner, always a prolific reader, is also one of the most prolific reviewers in horror. He has been the chief reviewer for the Overlook Connection Catalog, has reviewed for the DarkEcho newsletter, Cemetery Dance, Horror, Nova Express, Wetbones, and for many other publications.

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.