No Beast So Fierce, by Edward Bunker

Max Dembo is released from prison after serving an eight year stretch for forgery, and determines that he's going to go straight. But it's not as easy as he thinks: the terms of his parole require him to get a job and not to associate with any criminals, but he's never held honest employement, and all the people he knows outside are part of the underworld.

The thing that gives this book its twist is that Bunker himself was a criminal who became a writer after spending most of his time in prison, and so Dembo is, one assumes, a projection of Bunker's own experience and feelings.

This book could almost be a Richard Stark novel: Max feels very like Parker character, although he's got slightly softer edges (partly, but not entirely, because this is written in the first person). But for all the grittiness and believability, I don't think it was quite as good as a Parker book. It was a good novel, and it was definitely worth reading, and I would read more by Bunker. But I don't think it justified some of the hype on the cover (Quentin Tarantino saying it's the best crime book he's ever read).

Edit - I just checked and Tarantino is quoted as saying it's the best first-person crime novel he's read. So perhaps Tarantino doesn't think it's better than Stark.

Completed : 05-Aug-2012

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