by Jess Walter
Category: Fiction / General
293 pages; ISBN: 0060394412
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
HarperCollins Regan, Apr 2005, $24.95, 293 pp.
New Yorker Marty Hagen earned his first merit badge at fifteen years old; over two decades later his résumé is filled with felonies, convictions and other activity although his rap sheet contains no violent incidents.
The Feds become aware of Marty as a valuable tool. They enroll him in the witness protection program under the name Vince Camden residing in Spokane, Washington working as a manager at Donut Make You Hungry. The adjustment is initially a killer for the Manhattan street guy, but soon finds he need not rush to survive. He breaks family tradition registering to vote in the upcoming Reagan Carter presidential race.
However after two calm years on the West Coast, the easterner’s serene life shatters when hit man Ray (Sticks) Scatieri arrives to provide mob payback. Marty actually likes his lifestyle and wants to keep living it for decades to come. He need to figure out how to cancel the contract when Sticks is the best at completing his mission and has a reputation to maintain.
Readers will appreciate the metamorphoses of small time crook Vince into CITIZEN VINCE who finds he likes himself when he is productive in a positive way. Vince’s path to solid citizenship is not easy with tiny setbacks that could avalanche into a throwback to the felonious Vince if he falls through the donut hole back to the “easy” life. Jess Walter writes a fabulous character study that makes the case that to change behavior conditions must change also (Einstein’s definition of insanity comes to mind). CITIZEN VINCE is a terrific insightful tale that subtly makes a societal case on the significance of the environment on the person.
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