🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Eight years ago, ex-fighter pilot Joe Buonomo saved Frank Sinatra’s life and they’ve been pals ever since. So when Frank needs to get his latest girlfriend to Hollywood in time for a screen test, he asks Joe to fly her up in his charter plane. No problem…until Frank’s Lilah turns out to be the girl Joe once was going to marry, only then she was called Helen. Love rekindled, Joe intends to tell Frank, but then Helen goes missing and Frank wants Joe to find her. John Sandrolini is an airline pilot in real life so planes play a fairly big role, and he uses his inside knowledge to make these sequences very convincing.
This book reads like a cross between a Bogart film and Die Hard. Joe starts out as Bogart but morphs into Bruce Willis and Ol’ Blue Eyes plays himself. Lilah/Helen is tough Bacall some of the time and vulnerable Bergman (Ingrid not Ingmar!) the rest. Set in 1960, it gives a real flavour of the films of that era with the slick-talking, ex-war-hero lead, a femme fatale and some very bad bad-guys. (I wanted the main villain to be Edward G. Robinson but he just wouldn’t fit –Bronson, maybe? I found a bit part for Edward G. as the Mafia boss, though.)
Noiresque rather than completely noir, this is an all-action shoot-em-up with Joe facing off against a constant stream of baddies coming at him from every direction. As if it isn’t bad enough that a Mexican porn king has kidnapped his baby, the mysterious Chinese Ching Hwas are also out to get Joe. And that’s without Frank ‘helping’ by bringing his Mafia contacts on board. Throw in some corrupt politicians and a lot of betrayal and Joe’s really not having a good week. Fortunately, in the best action-fest tradition, he’s pretty much superhuman so the occasional gunshot wound, beating or airplane crash might delay him for a moment but won’t stop him.
Joe’s character is well developed and likeable, very much in the mould of John McClane. At one point the author gives a direct wink towards the Die Hard movies so the resemblance is obviously intentional and works well. Sinatra is the off-screen version – the friend of mobsters and politicians – and the author successfully pulls off the sometimes difficult task of using a real-life personality. The book is well written and for the most part sticks very well to the time period with only an occasional anachronism. I wondered throughout why the occasional swearing was bothering me and eventually realised that, while no doubt it happened in reality (and certainly in Die Hard!), it really didn’t happen in action films of the early 60s; so it somehow sounded incongruous in this book, which reads very much like watching a film. I don’t mean that it reads likes a screenplay, just that it is so firmly sited in the cinema tradition and of course located partly in Hollywood, that it feels filmic.
For my taste, the book was too long – I felt several of the action sequences could have been cut and there would still have been plenty left. I also felt the whole Chinese thing was an unnecessary complication that didn’t really fit in too well with the rest of the story. But these criticisms aside, I found this an enjoyable read overall, well constructed with a strong and believable central plot, and sure to please anyone who likes fast-paced, gun-toting action and adventure. And a fabulous excuse to listen to the King of Swing…
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.