Going writes in a slang-filled and hardboiled style, and his protagonist mixes old-school stoner references with action-movie machismo. His prose is full of original and startling descriptions: “Morning skies were angry-red and gray, and full of vinegar.” “The old house was fond of its own voice.” However, the narrative voice sometimes misses the mark with off-putting racial and sexual humor, such as the offhand observation that Declan “had been babe-candy since junior high.”
Fast pacing and fight sequences are where Going excels. The last third of the book is one long standoff that will keep readers hooked and anxious for the final explosion of gunfire. “Courage is a lie, a children’s tale,” the narrator asserts, yet Declan and Rachel show otherwise as they fiercely fight for their lives. Despite the book’s dark outlook on corruption and disloyalty in the military and law enforcement, Declan maintains his honor. Though a flawed hero, he realizes the distinction between himself and Ben: “I’m not evil, and I never will be.” Going’s thrilling tale of this morally gray Vietnam vet is perfect for those who enjoy gunfights and confrontation but aren’t afraid to laugh a little.
Takeaway: This action-filled novel will thrill readers who are looking for gunfights, cynicism about the military’s dark side, and edgy humor.
Great for fans of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, Philip M. Derrick’s Facing the Dragon.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
What is harder? To fight against your enemy in a war? Or to fight against the inner demons that you bring back with you?
Declan Noakes, a Vietnam veteran, craves for the life of a wanderer who’s trying to lose society’s “chains and tethers.” After smuggling Thai marijuana sticks, a.k.a Juicy Fruit, worth $1 million, Declan aims for a life of simplicity where he can enjoy his freedom as much as possible. But… there’s always a price to pay. Will he be willing to bear the costs?
Meanwhile, Officers Miguel Magana and Ike White begin tracking Declan’s movements. Where will that lead them? And when a fellow Army Ranger reappears from death’s doorstep, suspicions start rising. Why now? Moreover, Declan’s cousin and his trusted friend, Rachel, seems to be caught in the crossfire of the illegal mess. Will Declan find a solution to keep his beloved cousin safe, who happens to also be a widow, a concerning mother, and a minor helper in Declan’s trafficking? Perhaps, he will leave himself to the mercy of his inner demons and switch to his soldier’s stone-hearted defense when faced with danger again.
The Juicy Fruit Man deserved the perfect score of four out of four stars. The minor editorial issues did not prevent me from experiencing the tense moments and emotional sensations of the book.
LeMar Going, a San Diego native and an enthusiast of Chinese culture, successfully creates the story of an ordinary man who seeks a possible solution to end his combat nightmares. A life of nomadism seems plausible when the tough reality of wartime and its ever-present effects hit you. The harsh images from the war field displayed in front of my eyes, so it might be disturbing for some readers, especially if you served in the Army since these scenes might act as a trigger. Of note, some scenes hint at racial discrimination, but only to bring out the character’s feelings. Occasionally, colorful language is adopted parallel to the military vernacular.
This is the story of a simple man who struggles against the torment of bringing the war home. There is action, suspense, and realism. I completely forgot that I was reading a fictionalized story, and I continued reading with the impression that an old man is narrating about the scars of the battlefield along with gratitude for the simple, quiet life. Sometimes, Declan and Rachel surprised me with their familiar, amusing reactions to life events. As the story unfolds, we also get a glimpse of the wonderful American landscape from a cross-country Amtrak route. Another plus that kept me engaged and interested was the author’s original writing style. His tone has both a brute hardness and a smooth flow of warmth in word usage. I will mostly recommend The Juicy Fruit Man, by LeMar Going, to fans of the thriller genre.