Yard Dog by A.G. Pasquella - A book is not going to be a subtle exploration of deduction when it opens:
What does a man do when he gets out of jail? Gets drunk and gets laid, not necessarily in that order.
Jack Palace has just finished a 2 year sentence at the Don Valley Jail in Toronto. His friend Tommy picks him up in a limo and provides a welcome home night to remember.
Some tough guys feel naked without a gun. Jack feels unbalanced without a knife. His friend, Eddie Yao, provides him with a selection:
Long ones. Short ones. Skinny ones. Even a fat jewelled dagger that looked like Eddie might have swiped it from the British Museum. I pulled out a knife with a twelve-inch serrated blade and wrapped my hand around the handle. Perfectly weighted.
No one is tougher than Jack yet, by not carrying a gun Jack follows a Canadian crime fiction tough guy trait.
Jack has too many bad experiences locked in his head. He cannot sleep at night. As the sun comes up he goes to sleep.
Tommy is the son of a mob boss who is in a coma. With his Dad unlikely to survive Tommy is looking to replace him. As the screw-up son all his life, Tommy’s odds of becoming the boss are low. The hair trigger temper, heavy drinking and bad attitude create doubt he has the intelligence and organizational skills to be Boss.
Tommy has a plan to show he has Boss abilities. He will collect on debts owed to his father from some very bad men and Jack will be his collector. Jack owes Tommy who saved Jack’s life in jail.
In collections Jack uses the threat of violence carefully and only mentions consequences if discussion fails. Actual violence is a last resort. Jack is a very effective enforcer.
Opposing Tommy is Little Vito who is about as unpredictable as Tommy and no better at human relations.
Neither is a plausible Boss.
Following contemporary American tough guy crime fiction the body count is high. Every day there is killing. Toronto has its share of mean streets but too many bodies are falling in the Yard Dog. High body count fiction is now a subgenre. While I appreciate the action I find such fiction challenges my ability to suspend enough disbelief.
Howard Shrier’s sleuth, Jonah Geller, is a Canadian fictional tough guy based in Toronto but fewer bodies occupy his pages.
So many of the bad guys are steroid enhanced muscle men with rarely a thoughtful action. I wish there had been more character development.
Mario Puzo in The Godfather demonstrated the fictional benefits of families for the tough guys in the Mafia. No one has a functioning family in Yard Dog.
The crisp dialogue reminds me of the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker. With Yard Dog written over a generation later it is inevitable the dialogue will be cruder.
Pasquella is skilled at driving the narrative. The pages kept turning.
It is an interesting book. Maybe, with all the bodies in this book, the next in the series could focus more on the story and the characters. I believe Spenser had enduring appeal because the best books in the series had intelligence valued as much as brawn. I feel Pasquella has the ability to write more than action.