Europa Editions/World Noir, PB, $18.00, 385 pages, ISBN 978-1-60945-287-2
The joke’s on me . . .
Some weeks ago I was queried by a publicist for Europa Editions in New York City: “Would I review a noir novel of theirs if they sent a copy?” I noted that it had a September release date and said, ‘Sure,” then got an ARC (advance review copy) in the mail a few days later. I placed it in the reading stack so the MBR would come out mid-August, 2016 just before the release date of the book. So far . . . so good, as they say in melodrama, and at the exact right time for my plan to come to fruition, I pulled Fever City, by Tim Baker, and dove into what turned out to be one of the most arresting and intriguing novels to come my way since the Age of Aquarius. Told in three different years by three different characters, it’s a new, unorthodox and unique re-imagining of the Kennedy Assassination on November 22, 1963 as his motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas at high noon, local time.
The story begins in the fall of 1960. Behind-the-scenes deals are being struck by powerful, utterly ruthless, amoral and wealthy men to ensure that a certain charismatic young senator–Jack Kennedy from Massachusetts–is elected to the Presidency of the United States over a dour career politician and sitting Vice-President–Richard Nixon. When Kennedy is elected, they assume, favors will be repaid, allowing billions of dollars in favorable tax and royalty allowances to continue to accrue to the oil men, and the CIA will be sanctioned to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba . . . a boon to organized crime.
In Los Angeles, aka Fever City, a private investigator named Nick Alston is hired by one of the richest men in America to rescue his kidnapped son. The man’s name is Rex Bannister. Unknown to Alston, Bannister is setting a plan in motion that will rock the world, make him billions and leave Nick as the patsy–the fall guy who couldn’t see it coming.
That’s the same position war-hero turned hit-man Phillip Hastings finds himself in three years later . . . when he’s maneuvered by Bannister, and several of his cohorts, into being the trigger-puller in Dallas on that fateful day in November 1963 . . . the fall guy. The one who gets blamed. The patsy.
The final leg of the complicated plot occurs in 2014, when a journalist begins re-examining the myths surrounding Alston and Bannister’s role in the Kennedy assassination with the idea of exposing them as more far-out conspiracy theories without a shred of truth to them. He’s the son of one of the players and his attempt to clear his father’s name will reveal some electrifying truths neither he . . . nor the world . . . are prepared to admit.
This astonishing, cerebral novel will make you rethink what you thought you knew about that awful day the President of the United States was shot and killed in front of the whole country. It comes at your sensibilities like a roaring freight train, hypnotizes you with its passing, and leaves a doppler-like memory in your brain as it leaves. It’s powerful, compelling and thought-provoking noir by a debut author who’s already at the top of his game!
And the joke? Fever City was released on May 10, 2016 . . . just about the time I receivd the query and book. I don’t know how I got that September date in my head . . .my bad!