Book Review: BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB

When done well, pulpy crime fiction is one of the most entertaining genres in the world. Nick Kolakowski knows how to construct narratives that offer enough action and violence to keep readers interested and enough humor, likeable characters, and mayhem to infuse his work with that highly entertaining, undeniably cinematic feel that only comes from top-notch pulp. 

Jake Halligan is a bounty hunter who knows what he’s doing and is almost always in control. However, that changes when he comes home to a dead body stuffed in his gun safe. Since his entire life is spent putting bad people behind bars, Jake thinks the body could be a warning, but from who? To find answers, he enlists the help of his sister Frankie, an arms dealer who loves being in the middle of the action, and dives deep into the Idaho underworld. In that murky depth, he finds plenty of violence and bad people, but the thing the group that most wants him gone is one that lives far from the bottom of society and very close to the very top. The powerful men who are after Jake have the contacts and money to make things happen quietly, but they prefer to be involved and have a cruel game going. Jake, his wife, and Frankie end up having to play it, and their very lives are at stake. What follows is a wild, violent, entertaining narrative about people trying to battle those who hold the reigns of our society and use their money and influence for nefarious purposes.  

Kolakowski is a talented storyteller who understands that making sure readers have fun with a book is a crucial thing, and he works hard at making that happen. BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB moves forward at breakneck speed, is packed with crackling dialogue, and contains heavy doses of brutality and humor that perfectly balance each other out. Also, the characters are well developed and the relationships between them are all explored to various degrees. The result is a novel in which family plays a crucial role at all times and give the main character the support he needs in more than one way. In this regard, Frankie is one of the highlights of the novel: 

“When your sister sells illegal weapons for a living, and uses of those weapons to blast a rival into barbeque, setting up a coffee meet requires old-fashioned spycraft. First you spend an hour driving randomly through downtown Boise to make sure you lose any unmarked cars full of cops or feds. Next you pull into a three-story parking garage near the hospital, to prevent anyone from seeing you duck into a van with tinted windows driven by one of your sister’s tougher-looking dudes, who drives you west, out of the city.” 

As mentioned above, nothing compares to pulp when it comes from a capable author, and that’s the case here. The bad guys are easy to hate, the (anti)heroes are likeable, the action passages are explosive and written with great economy of language, and the plot is the kind that points at something in society that is wrong without ever becoming preachy. Those elements coalesce into an explosive, funny, brutal story where a lot happens in a short amount of time, and the author’s sharp prose helps the pace immensely: 

“Standing in front of the lit headlights of the SUV, Barnes paused for a half-second too long. His shoulder spat red, and he winced. Another thump. He dipped his knees, and a black line opened along the side of his close-cropped head. The driver’s side mirror popped in a bright burst of glass and metal.” 

BOISE LONGPIG HUNTING CLUB is a quick, fun, violent book about fighting privilege and doing whatever it takes to stay alive. It is a novel that fits perfectly in the Down & Out Books catalog and further proof that Kolakowski is a fine purveyor of explosive, exciting noir.