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The Heartbreak Lounge


The Heartbreak Lounge

There is a mystery novel titled THE LAST GOOD KISS by James
Crumley. The work is revered by aficionados of the genre, many of
whom establish their bona-fides with one another by demonstrating
their ability to recite the opening paragraph of the book from
memory. I shall now give these individuals cause to rend their
garments at the blasphemy I'm about to commit, but commit it I
must: the first six pages of THE HEARTBREAK LOUNGE by Wallace
Stroby are just as good. Maybe even better. Pick up the book, test
drive those pages, and see if you can stop reading, once you've
brushed from your eyes the grit and gravel that you've accumulated
as you stand with the newly released Johnny Harrow on the hot
macadam of a Florida highway as he ostensibly attempts to hitchhike
away from his past and into his future.

I somehow missed THE BARBED-WIRE KISS, Stroby's first effort, which
introduced ex-New Jersey State Trooper Harry Rane. If you've
already read THE BARBED-WIRE KISS, you don't need me to tell you
any more. But if you're not familiar with Stroby, and Rane, you
might want to hang with me for just a minute here. You won't be

Stroby's territory is the southern end of Central New Jersey, not
the genteel Red Bank or even the deceptively laid back Monmouth,
but Asbury Park and Neptune, municipalities that exude a quiet,
dark uneasiness below the surface. It is to this area that Harrow
is returning by way of Florida to settle old scores and to avenge
what he considers, not without some merit, to be a number of wrongs
wrought upon him. One of these involves a woman named Nikki Ellis,
who gave birth to Harrow's son while Harrow was in prison and gave
the baby up for adoption. Rane, for his part, is employed by a
security agency run by one of his former state trooper colleagues.
Ellis retains the agency for protection, an act that puts Rane and
Harrow on a collision course.

Rane's tragic flaw is that he is a man who attracts violence while
being reluctant to respond in kind. Harrow, on the other hand, has
the cunning of a reservoir dog and the disposition to match. His
behavior is erratic and unpredictable, with the effect of his
actions radiating violently outward from his locus. When these two
men ultimately collide, it is with the effect of an irresistible
force meeting an immovable object.

With little fanfare Stroby is breaking new ground in the realm of
noir literature. His descriptive abilities are breathtaking,
and quite possibly without contemporary peer in the genre. THE
HEARTBREAK LOUNGE demonstrates a talent that runs deep, dark and
rich. Highest possible recommendation.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

The Heartbreak Lounge
by Wallace Stroby

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312300956
  • ISBN-13: 9780312300951