Marc Lecard’s debut novel was a darkly humorous caper
story lovingly titled VINNY’S HEAD. The critical and popular
attention garnered by that particular work raised expectations and
anticipation for his follow-up effort, the deceptively yet aptly
titled TINY LITTLE TROUBLES. It is a pleasure to report that Lecard
has met and exceeded those lofty expectations.
As with VINNY’S HEAD, TINY LITTLE TROUBLES is filled with
rough-and-tumble characters for whom violence is not so much a tool
as a knee-jerk reaction. “Restraint” is not part of the
operative lexicon. Lecard mines the northern California underbelly
in a manner similar to that with which Carl Hiaasen explores the
back streets of south Florida without, perhaps, the elitism that
has gradually crept into Hiaasen’s work. The result is a
prose style that alternately has one laughing at turns of phrase
while gagging at descriptions, often within the same
TINY LITTLE TROUBLES is set primarily in the San Francisco area.
That city is a place containing marked contrasts, one of the
biggest being Aaron Rogell, a brilliant scientist with a start-up
company on the verge of leaving him with more money than God.
Rogell has created a nanotech innovation that is akin to alchemy:
smaller than microscopic robots that can create virtually anything.
Rogell, however, has a tragic flaw: despite having a beautiful and
loyal wife named Amanda, a new baby and the ability to execute a
groundbreaking idea, he is given to wretched sexual excess. The
fact that Rogell lives in South San Francisco is both a blessing
and a curse, considering his addiction. On the one hand, he is
close to the source of virtually anything he can imagine, and even
a few things he can’t. On the other, well, he can very easily
perish in his own desires.
And that is just what he is trying to do. Making nightly visits
into San Francisco’s notoriously seedy Tenderloin District,
he is busily indulging himself while his wife thinks he is working.
Rogell even has a mistress, a highly paid call girl named Aphrodite
who is busily juggling Rogell and two other suitors. It is an
erstwhile associate of Aphrodite’s, however, the wonderfully
named Pablo Clench, who is going to upset the delicate balance that
she works so hard to maintain. Clench gives new meaning to the word
“lowlife”; when Rogell shows off his new invention to
Aphrodite --- the manner in which Rogell wastes its abilities on a
demonstration is alone worth the price of admission --- Clench
immediately senses the potential and begins what is most accurately
described as a hostile takeover.
When gentle persuasion fails to work, Rogell is kidnapped and
held hostage until he reveals the secret behind his invention.
Clench and his associates, however, are cursed with the condition
of being clever but not smart. Disaster strikes on two fronts:
Rogell’s nanobots are quietly unleashed upon an unsuspecting
San Francisco. And Amanda? In spite of everything, she wants her
husband back and will do just about anything to reclaim him.
TINY LITTLE TROUBLES is very character driven, and while you
wouldn’t trust most of the folks you meet therein behind a
wheel, you will still enjoy the journey. Lecard’s Tenderloin
is dead-on --- one of the most coldly accurate descriptions of the
neighborhood I have read to date --- and better than a Google
street view visit. He also has a penchant for suddenly and
violently taking characters off the page, a quality that imbues his
narrative with the feeling that anything at all can and will happen
before the last page is read.
With just two novels, Lecard has established himself as a
must-read author, and TINY LITTLE TROUBLES is one-half of the
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011