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Too Obnoxious to Live
By Stephen Solomira.
ZSS pp. New York:
C. P.l'utiiOm's Sons.
By Amy Pagnozzi
m: RE is a graffito I bave been """ina for years
tl\at Is as sure a slj:n of creeping gentrification
ns scaflold!ng and ripped-up streeu, wareless
stores and warehoused apartments. "Ole Yuppie
Scum," it says. And increasingly, I find myself bobbing
my bead In agreement - despite violently pacifist
tendencies and tbe niggling suspicion that tbe words
refer to rne. Somehow, those meticulous ly rt-Stored
brownstones a nd gourmet takeout joints seem mocking
now with homeless bloclcing the doors. Wori<blg people
are leaving New Yortc. All in aU, it seems a 'preuy bad
trade lor the city, losing our middJe.<:las3 tax base in
acba.oge lor a few pieces of blackened redfis!L
unlesS. ol course. you're a landlord. You don't 1\ave
to be particularly perceptive to figure out wl\at Stephen
$()lomita thblks of landlords. You cloo'l even have to
read his book. Just open tbe cover ol "Forced Entry"
and there ltls - nc> legalese about persoos, places and
things being entirely Imaginary, just a lew chc>lce
wc>rd< where the dis<:lalmer should be:
"This Is a work ofliction. Despite tbe exlstenceof a
real Jackson Heights and the weU-<Iocumented greed of
New Yori< slumlords. ... A word to the wisesuy."
It's more or a dare than a d:iscl:aimer. Read beyond
the first Ghopter and )IOU'll tbe imprcsslon that Mr.
Solomita would love to libel a landlord - if only he
thought it was possible. Marek the real
estate develOper of ltis third de-tective novel, is a
grasping. contemptible creatu.re. the sort ol wise &uY
wannabe who would stop at nothing to be a player. and
still fuU ,;bort. Najowski, a graduate or tbe top-of-the-
heap school of morality. likes to keep others around to
remind him who's c>n the bottom. To Najowski, "the
absolutely be5t th\ng about whores . .. was the lndisput·
able fact thDl tbey didn't their customel'$. For
instan<>o, Marte, tbe black whore S<:rubbin& his kitchen,
actually bated him; he could feeltbe hatred rolliftl: orr
her, as real as the sweat that rolled between her
breasts." Nloe guy. this Najowski, who callS himself
"Mikey" and a!Cect.s street-tough patois when be talks
to himself in the mirror. The absolutely best thing abc>Ut
him 1:< you know he's too obooxious to Uve 10 the end of
the .boolt.
"Foroed Entry" is tbe third time around tbe block
lor tbe book's hero. the plodding. ungainly pollee detec-
tive Stanley Mood row. Moodrowt retired oow, stumbles
onto Najowski's campaign ol terror against elderly
rent--controlled tenants lhrougb h.is new love Interest.
the Legal Aid lawyer Betty Haluka. Protagonlst.s who
pass up Lithe young blOndes for prominent·nosed wom-
en of 45 aren't easy to come by. Moodrow lolls 1\ard lor
his girlfrlood - "dart-balred, pretty but
with very st:ron,g features'" - and waJreS eloquent: "Sbe
-• dressed for court tbe times 1 seen her and it'S hard
to tell bow she's builL II I had to guess, L'd say she's a
little chunky, but l think there's muscle under tbere."
Pure prole poetry. Mr. Solomlta's writing Is Mtu-
ral, so you <lon' t know you're reading. Wben lltea.{'d be
used to be a New '(or.k City cabby, I was sure )le, must
have ta.k.en me tor a ride - bis hero reminc:ls me of
every cynical, c>plnlc>nated driver I have ever met.
decrying the system as he cruises the streets. You
know the type - they listen to radio and can
recUe the names of 'll1(ery city official ever Indicted;
they can teit you which storefront sells dnli5, whieh
judge sells favors and which bakery sells real nogetach.
They would be Intolerable - it, as a journalist, I didn't
get stories out of them.
But Mr. Solc>mlta can't be ol this breed, because
be's saved his best stories for bimseU. HJs ear for
vernacular - cops, Muslims, Httle old Jewish ladies -
is so good, you kn.ow he listened to every word his lares
ever said. He give• voice to the ghosts that may luri< In
your brite coovertbl2 BR. a/c. DW roof gdn - the ones
tricked, trashe(l, bume(l out c>l wl\at Is now your home.
I'm not entirely sure Stephen Solomita means to be
writing mysteries. At his best. he bas Elmore Leonard's
flair fur let tina )IOU view the world through bls chant<>
tel'S' eyes. no mauer hoW narrow or bow bloodshot, and
a fledgling Tom Wolle's grasp of the social subtext. His
pacing, though; Is like Allred Uhry's - floe and dandy
for •orivirq: Miss Daisy," a little slow when you're
moving from crime scenes to crack ho<oses. On the
whole, mysteries shouldn't meander - bUt on the
whole, meandorinS IS what Mr. Solo!llita <loos beSl.
Pe rhaps tn the future. if he stays witb Ulis form,
Mr. S<>IOmita will pick up speed and gam oome momen-
tum. but "Forald Entry" Is still a worthwhile uip. •otry
not to stare at the meter. There's plenty, alter to see
out the windows: things &tilly and gatlsb, toO hard and
too real - things of a New Yortc that Is genttllied, but
DeVeT gentle.
Amy Papul Is " columnist 'for The New York

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