Two of my all-time favorite novels are THE BARBED-WIRE KISS and
THE HEARTBREAK LOUNGE. Both are written by Wallace Stroby, and both
are crime novels as dark and gritty a walk on the wild side that
you can get without dirtying your shoes. Stroby has been absent
from the literary scene for a while but returns with GONE
’TIL NOVEMBER, a somewhat different work from his previous
titles, but one that demonstrates that he has not lost one iota of
the magic that made his first two books instant classics.
While THE BARBED-WIRE KISS and THE HEARTBREAK LOUNGE were set in
North Central New Jersey, GONE ’TIL NOVEMBER utilizes a bit
of a change of scenery and makes readers who are familiar with
Stroby’s prior works sit up and take notice. The new book
opens in central Florida where a nighttime traffic stop on a
deserted rural highway goes horribly wrong for Derrick Willis, a
motorist from New Jersey with a cache of guns in his trunk. Deputy
Sheriff Sara Cross responds to a call only to find that Billy
Flynn, her former partner and lover, has shot Willis at the scene.
The shooting appears to be justifiable given the gun in
Willis’s hand, and the matter is considered closed even as
the officers investigating the case have some lingering doubts.
But Willis’s death sets wheels in motion, not only among
some heavy-hitting Haitian criminals in South Florida but also for
a Newark drug dealer who is suddenly out a fortune in money ---
which seems to have disappeared from Willis’s car --- that he
needs for his ever-increasing legal defenses. An enforcer named
Morgan is dispatched to Florida to recover the money by any means
necessary. Morgan, as we learn very quickly in the alternate
opening chapters of GONE ’TIL NOVEMBER, is a product of the
rough streets of Newark, who is capable of sudden and extreme
violence and yet adheres to a rough moral code.
Morgan needs the money as well, and the double-cross that he
believes his employer is about to pull on him dovetails with the
one he is about to spring on both his employer and the Haitian
gang. In the meantime, Cross is slowly moving into the middle of
what is about to become a hellacious crossfire as she begins to
realize that the man with whom she was once involved --- and still
loves --- is in over his head as he becomes entrenched in
what’s going on. Violent dramas are played out as North
Jersey comes to Central Florida, and several parties learn that
violence, greed and death are the same no matter where you are.
Stroby truly gets it right. If you were a fan of “The
Wire” and impressed with how accurately Baltimore was
portrayed on that series, you will be doubly impressed with GONE
’TIL NOVEMBER, wherein Stroby, armed with words, captures the
essence of the streets of Newark, come to call on the back roads of
Florida. If you love noir crime fiction or good, solid
literature in general and don’t read this book, then you
haven’t kissed the prettiest girl on the block.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011