Hardboiled noir fans: Bob Truluck delivers a lot more than promised in The Big Nothing. That’s no backhanded compliment.
The promise includes a vicious series of showdowns, a coterie of sadists and pervs, and a few well-intentioned rubes caught up in a game bigger than the pile they’re after.
The cast of criminals and dirty cops range from two common thieves of dubious mutual allegiance to a pair of sophisticated professionals with international pedigree and wild libidos. There’s the shifty lawyer and his boy-toy lover who play-act sex games of Russian Kapow, and a mothballed old crook bringing up the rear with his neophyte hacker.
Middle of them all is the sad-sack FBI gumshoe and his mysterious handler, who may or may not be running the game: ‘Milky wasn’t even sure what the guy was, if he was armed services, Special Forces, DEA, Secret Service or a fucking spook. Milky’d been led to believe the latter, but found out if you called the CIA joint in Virginia they’d say they didn’t know anyone by that name.’
A slow-cooked start gets the players onstage, and one or two detours with some heavy detail pad an otherwise tight and intricate yarn. Truluck’s tough-guy patois runs mostly authentic, James Ellroy shooting the shit with Elmore Leonard. “Eddie was the tethered dog at a gator hunt.”
The Jag pulled off the road, crossed the narrow shoulder and parked under a couple of trees.
M. pulled up behind, got out, sucked stomach, filled his chest, and walked to the car. The windows were heavily tinted and it could have just as easily been the Pope in the car as the woman. The window came down. It wasn’t the woman. It wasn’t the Pope, either.
The long narrow gun in a hand the color of caramel jumped, the noise no louder than a textbook slamming shut.
The plot centers on four crates of gold worth plenty of millions, and the question’s not how much but how? How and where and who will get it. Likely we’re all rooting for downluck loser Marty Pell and his partner in crime Shad Dupree: “I look around, we’re the good guys—in a relative sort of way—and the good guys always win.”
Winning, in this case, is a lot more than just guns and gold, guts and glory. It’s wry and promiscuous and unafraid to light up, get high, go down. It’s unafraid of the absurd: “No, Toy, you have got to wear pants. You can’t walk through the Freeport terminal bare-assed.” “I’ll put on boxers.” “Over the chaps?”
When it finally turns toward the home stretch the tome leaves readers begging for more. Flying bullets and bloody counter-measures, a crook v. crook v. crook v. crooked-cop tale. Who gets the gold and who gets the lead?
There may be more to this answer than The Big Nothing shares.