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Choke Hold

Review

Choke Hold

Christa Faust is one of the best fiction writers working in America today. In 2008, she became the first female author in the powerful Hard Case Crime lineup with the publication of MONEY SHOT. Now she has released a follow-up to that book titled CHOKE HOLD, which is hard-boiled noir fiction at its best.

"CHOKE HOLD...is hard-boiled noir fiction at its best."

People often mistakenly think of pulp fiction as a male game. But from the start, there were great female writers defining the genre, such as Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy B. Hughes and Vin Packard. Faust has worked extensively in the pulp field, authoring horror novels and winning a Scribe Award for the novelization of the movie Snakes on a Plane. She has also worked as a filmmaker, model and, once upon a time, a Times Square peep show girl back in the good old bad days of the Deuce.

Noir fiction at its greatest takes us to the dark side, to places most folks will never experience. And Faust has created one of the great women of noir in Angel Dare, a porn star. She is not a victim, but a strong, independent woman --- a survivor --- who refuses to give up. It would be so easy to write the stereotypical cliché of a female porn star. But Faust creates here a real flesh-and-blood character.
 
At the start of MONEY SHOT, Angel was persuaded to make one more film. She ended up being left for dead in the trunk of a car, but fought back and brought down a sex trafficking ring.
 
When CHOKE HOLD begins, we learn that Witness Protection did not work out well for Angel. After 19 months, the bad guys found her. So we encounter Angel now working as a waitress in a tiny diner in the middle of nowhere. She is sleeping with the owner in hopes of getting new fake ID papers, plotting her next escape. But one day, a former co-star from the porn world and the love of her life, who had gotten lost in drugs, suddenly reappears.
 
Things are about to get very bad. Vic is there to meet, for the first time, his 18-year-old son from another woman. Then, while Angel is staring into a coffee carafe, three guys with guns walk into the place and start shooting. Vic gets hit first.
 
Angel now has to protect Vic’s kid, who is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, on a mad but bloody dash from Mexico to Vegas through the Arizona desert, with two sets of killers after them. The kid naively believes he has been involved in steroids but is really up to his neck in cocaine smuggling. And the sex traffickers Angel testified against --- alerted to her location by the shootout --- are now out to silence her for good.
 
Faust is not just a great storyteller; she also distinguishes herself here as a great noir writer. As all true noir writers should, she exposes the corruptness of the established order and shows that perhaps there really is no way out for people trapped by both their own actions and their fate. She reflects the existential truth about life and reality through a wild and entertaining story. In the final chapter, she writes one of the best and most courageous noir scenes I have read in quite a while. 
 
CHOKE HOLD is a great read that will stick with you for a long time. You will not be disappointed. Hopefully, Faust has many more hard-boiled stories --- and especially another Angel Dare adventure --- in store.
 

Reviewed by Tom Callahan on October 27, 2011

Choke Hold
by Christa Faust