Lecard is a hoot. I don't know where he gets his ideas, but it has
to be from a place where the buses don't run. A former resident of
Long Island, Lecard now resides in Northern California, which
explains --- at least in part --- where the characters in his
darkly comic debut novel come from. But the ideas? Yikes!
VINNIE'S HEAD is about just that: Vinnie's head. Johnnie LoDuco, a
very small-time (and largely unsuccessful) criminal from Long
Island, finds Vinnie's head while fishing. The head in question
belongs to the improbably named Vinnie McCloskey-Schmidt, who is in
the process of involving his childhood friend Johnnie in a credit
card sweep scam that will make them rich beyond their wildest
dreams (or so Vinnie promises). But when LoDuco reels Vinnie's head
in on the end of a fishing line --- without the rest of Vinnie to
go along with it --- all bets are off.
In fact, it's worse than that. Everyone is now after him --- mob
guys, Vinnie's girlfriend, the police --- and he has no port to
escape the storm. Actually, that's not quite accurate. He does find
two people: one is a slum goddess working in a video store, and the
other is a gent named Bogdan. Bogdan is a crucial character --- he
pretty much steals the book away --- but Lecard waits until readers
are more than two-thirds of the way through the story before
introducing him. A lesser writer would have brought in such a
character more towards the beginning, but Lecard interjects Bogdan
perfectly here, making him a major player in the conclusion. What
ultimately results is at the end of a road that gets stranger and
stranger with each and every mile.
VINNIE'S HEAD isn't so much funny as it is wacky. There are times
where you want to reach into the page and smack LoDuco for being
stupid or cowardly, but he's just lovable enough that you hold
yourself in check and forgive him. On top of that, almost everyone
in this book is worse than he is, so he gets your love --- or at
least some of it --- by default.
This entertaining debut has enough characters --- in every sense of
the word --- to fill five novels, and I have the feeling we're
going to see a few of them in the future. At the very least,
however, I want to see more work from Lecard.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011