Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Hot Pursuit is a sharp, entertaining police thriller, nicely mixing grittily realistic police activities with well-staged, larger-than-life set pieces that you might see in a James Bond, Die Hard, or Jerry Bruckheimer production. Holding it all together is a collection of well-drawn characters whose fates we come to care about.
The book, previously unavailable for many years, abounds with small touches, grace notes, and descriptive flourishes that place it several cuts above the many back list, formally unpublished, and direct-to Kindle titles that now flood the Kindle store. A favorite scene shows rookie cop Tina Tamiko, shotgun in hand, forcing herself into the car that her partner, veteran cop Jack Calico, is using for his illegal (and heavily wagered on) run to Las Vegas and back. A lesser writer would have wasted fifty pages having Calico being mad at Tamiko for shoehorning herself into his last-day-on-the-job adventure, before predictably having them make up. Paul Bishop totally avoids this, having them yell at each other for a page or two to deflate their tempers, then happily embrace one another's enthusiasm for the run.
Bishop's range is also impressive. He'll totally sell a frat house-style prank involving a tipped-over portable toilet in one scene, then totally engross us in an intensely serious conversation where two cops discuss their true feelings about the general public in another. And he makes diverse scenes like these comfortably coexist with each other, creating a coherent whole.
Pacing, plotting, and the unfolding of scenes are all top-notch (making me think the author wouldn't make a bad director), but for me the characters really make the book shine. While there are definitely heroes and villains in the story, the good guys have flaws, fears, and some unlikable qualities, and the bad guys have style, wit, and/or understandable motivations. There are no cartoon characters in Hot Pursuit. Which isn't to say that there aren't some very, very funny scenes (the toilet scene was only one of many).
Set in the late 1970's, and apparently written by Mr. Bishop around that time, too, Hot Pursuit still feels fresh, fun, and alive, and not dated in the least. If you like the rich characterizations of classic police shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, combined with a big-budget movie feel, you can't go wrong with the book.
People often complain that the new e-book market allows too many shoddy, amateurish titles to reach the reading public. I'm not sure if that's true or not, as I've read my share of traditionally published books that proved unimpressive over the years, long before e-books came along. But even if there is some truth to that way of thinking, if the new world of e-books gets titles like Hot Pursuit back in circulation for readers to enjoy, I'll happily wade through all the lesser e-books out there to find them.
Hot Pursuit is available on Kindle for $2.99.