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At 1:59 a.m. in Spokane, Washington—eight days before the 1980 presidential election—Vince Camden pockets his stash of stolen credit cards and drops by an all-night poker game before heading to his witness-protection job dusting crullers at Donut Make You Hungry. Along with a neurotic hooker girlfriend, this is the total sum of Vince's new life. But when a familiar face shows up in town, Vince realizes his sordid past is still too close behind him. During the next unforgettable week, he'll negotiate a coast-to-coast maze of obsessive cops, eager politicians, and assorted mobsters—only to find that redemption might exist, of all places, in the voting booth.

Published: HarperCollins on May 29, 2012
ISBN: 9780061959301
List price: $6.99
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After a couple of gripping, character-driven crime novels in which he effectively de-romanticized serial killers, Walter should hit big with this charming noir about a small time NYC crook relocated to Spokane from the Big Apple after turning state’s evidence against the mob. He can be found each morning before dawn at Donut Make You Happy, frying dough and setting up the till. No, it isn’t a glamorous lifestyle, but it helps him unwind after a night of poker at Sam’s Pit, and the dough sweetens his take from the stolen-credit-card ring and drug dealing. Free of the big-city criminal rat race, his deepest preoccupations now are counting how many dead people he knows—more than living ones, it turns out—and figuring out whether to vote for Carter or Reagan in next week’s election. Life can’t get much better, until a visit from a certain business associate of the Gottis raises the stakes, and Vince’s bluff is called. Walter’s dialogue is on a par with Elmore Leonard’s, with flashes of humor and warmth that give this book a lighter feel than his prior novels’ haunting explorations of evil, making this a fine introduction to a local treasure for fans of intelligent crime, psychological suspense, and gripping literary fiction. And you gotta love the setting (Steve Oliver’s Dead Men was another recent Spokane noir). Writes Walter, “The city I write about is a grimy place. I loved Seattle when it was grimy because it seemed so true. And one thing I will say about Spokane, it’s true.” Yes, I too miss the grime. Together with Portland’s Lono Waiwaiole, Walter is putting Northwest noir on the map.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I'm humbled. This book is smarter than me, and yet it never went too far over my head. As a reader I rarely detect all the levels of meaning in a complex book, but in this case I felt that they were readily accessible, and I count that as a *major* plus.I have to admit that Vince was slow to develop for me...and in the first few chapters I was puzzling over how this won an Edgar simply because the crime seemed so beside the fact. Kind of like giving My Friend Leonard an Edgar. But by the end I would have been glad to invite vince into the house. To babysit the kids, even. Same with DuPree...even, possibly, with Charles. Give me this bunch of characters over any of the squeaky-clean genre heros any day.Mob stories don't generally do a whole lot for me, but in this case I thought it made an excellent structure to hang Vince's development on. The mob, after all, is a culture where virtue is either meaningless or twisted into an unrecognizable form - just like politics! Bringing in that Carter/Reagan election was brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, and I'm more than a little jealous that I didn't think of getting some investigative journalism experience before trying to write fiction. Carter's introspection near the end of the book was just about the saddest thing I've read lately. You know, I just had a thought; why don't we give the teenagers this treatment of that election rather than what they've read in the history books - it's probably closer to the bone and certainly more memorable.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Great read, fun book. Sympathetic small time crook beats the system, sort of, and reforms.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

After a couple of gripping, character-driven crime novels in which he effectively de-romanticized serial killers, Walter should hit big with this charming noir about a small time NYC crook relocated to Spokane from the Big Apple after turning state’s evidence against the mob. He can be found each morning before dawn at Donut Make You Happy, frying dough and setting up the till. No, it isn’t a glamorous lifestyle, but it helps him unwind after a night of poker at Sam’s Pit, and the dough sweetens his take from the stolen-credit-card ring and drug dealing. Free of the big-city criminal rat race, his deepest preoccupations now are counting how many dead people he knows—more than living ones, it turns out—and figuring out whether to vote for Carter or Reagan in next week’s election. Life can’t get much better, until a visit from a certain business associate of the Gottis raises the stakes, and Vince’s bluff is called. Walter’s dialogue is on a par with Elmore Leonard’s, with flashes of humor and warmth that give this book a lighter feel than his prior novels’ haunting explorations of evil, making this a fine introduction to a local treasure for fans of intelligent crime, psychological suspense, and gripping literary fiction. And you gotta love the setting (Steve Oliver’s Dead Men was another recent Spokane noir). Writes Walter, “The city I write about is a grimy place. I loved Seattle when it was grimy because it seemed so true. And one thing I will say about Spokane, it’s true.” Yes, I too miss the grime. Together with Portland’s Lono Waiwaiole, Walter is putting Northwest noir on the map.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I'm humbled. This book is smarter than me, and yet it never went too far over my head. As a reader I rarely detect all the levels of meaning in a complex book, but in this case I felt that they were readily accessible, and I count that as a *major* plus.I have to admit that Vince was slow to develop for me...and in the first few chapters I was puzzling over how this won an Edgar simply because the crime seemed so beside the fact. Kind of like giving My Friend Leonard an Edgar. But by the end I would have been glad to invite vince into the house. To babysit the kids, even. Same with DuPree...even, possibly, with Charles. Give me this bunch of characters over any of the squeaky-clean genre heros any day.Mob stories don't generally do a whole lot for me, but in this case I thought it made an excellent structure to hang Vince's development on. The mob, after all, is a culture where virtue is either meaningless or twisted into an unrecognizable form - just like politics! Bringing in that Carter/Reagan election was brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, and I'm more than a little jealous that I didn't think of getting some investigative journalism experience before trying to write fiction. Carter's introspection near the end of the book was just about the saddest thing I've read lately. You know, I just had a thought; why don't we give the teenagers this treatment of that election rather than what they've read in the history books - it's probably closer to the bone and certainly more memorable.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Great read, fun book. Sympathetic small time crook beats the system, sort of, and reforms.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Strange ending for a dark comedy. Almost didn't fit but in the end did.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I listened to Citizen Vince while reading Financial Life of the Poets. Maybe it was the being read to but I just laughed all the way though Citizen Vince, what a perfect amalgamation of cops, robber, and donut makers, with a special surprise guest appearance by John Gotti. One of my top reads of this year. Financial life of the Poets was good also but done better by Dave Zeltserman in "Outsourced". But Jess Walter - I will read everything he wrote and writes. Hope he'll be around doing a reading soon, I'd like to meet him.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Literary. Funny. Set in the Pacific Northwest. Plot twists. Great characters. All the elements in place. What a fun book! Vince is a small-time crook who ends up in the witness protection program in Spokane WA on the cusp of the 1980 presidential election. And it turns out that what Vince misses most are his voting rights. But it looks like someone from his past is after him. So off we go. A memorable moment is when Vince brings a politician to a local dive on the eve of the election to try to garner votes. The crowd of two-bit criminals, prostitutes and losers is rapt and ready to throw their support behind the guy--but none of them is a registered voter. Oh...pretty amusing! I'd love to see a sequel!
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