Philip Reed Low Rider

ISBN 13: 9780786217588

Low Rider

3.33 avg rating
( 12 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780786217588: Low Rider

"Defined by a brilliant economy of style, a no-nonsense world view, and a lack of cliché....This bleak, funny...tale of used-car corruption, murder, and sex in a seamy, unremitting L.A. combines unlikely, grittily real characters with tough, clean prose," raved The Boston Book Review of the author's debut thriller, Bird Dog. Now, Reed brings back hardluck L.A. hero Harold Dodge in the eagerly awaited sequel to his "savage but jovial black comedy...[and] formidable set of wheels" (Literary Review).

Life continues to throw Harold Dodge some wicked curves. But sometimes, the more wicked the curve the better. Take Vikki Covo, widow of Harold's former boss at the Joe Covo car dealership. She's a blonde, she's beautiful, and she's angling for a million-dollar settlement on her husband's life insurance policy. Vikki's a curve in the shape of a dollar sign, a woman Harold could learn to love almost as much as he loves his '64 Chevy Impala. If only she handled as well....

The deal: if Harold negotiates the insurance settlement, he'll get ten percent, plus Vikki's everlasting gratitude and affection. The problem: the police are treating Joe Covo's death as a suicide, meaning no payout on the insurance. And when Harold suggests the cops rule it a homicide instead, they're all too willing to oblige, figuring him as their number-one suspect. Staring a murder rap in the face, Harold must descend into a rogue's gallery of low-riding gangbangers, car thieves, chop-shop operators, and collection agents.

Mixing business with pleasure is always a risky affair, and in this case Harold's in so deep he's getting the bends. From cowboy cops to jealous lovers, just about everybody wants a piece of him. Worst of all, the bad guys have sunk to a new low: they've stolen his Impala and stripped it for parts. Harold's going to find his Chevy and put it back together...even if it means going to hell and back in Vikki's four-cylinder rice-burner.

From the moment the key is turned in its ignition, Low Rider takes off on a supercharged, high-speed adventure you'll wish would never end. "Reed does for low-life L.A. what Hiaasen does for Florida -- turns it into a seriocomic carnival of suspense" (Publishers Weekly).

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Review:

Philip Reed doesn't waste any time getting down to business in his second book about a slightly bent but basically good-hearted Los Angeles car dealer named Harold Dodge. On page one, right after a bunch of gangbangers on the 405 freeway give thumbs-up approval to his lime green '64 Chevy Impala SS with 300-horsepower engine, Harold begins to muse: "He had lived here his whole life until he was forced to leave the country last year because of a couple of murders he didn't commit. Now, he was back to straighten things out. Repair the damage he had done to Vikki's life, and his own, and--who knows?--make some nice money in the process." As readers of Reed's Edgar-nominated debut novel, Bird Dog, know, Vikki is the widow of Dodge's former employer, a man killed because of a crooked car deal by the woman who became Harold's lover. Reed's second outing is as complicated, colorful, and full of great cars as his first--and judging by the tire tracks left at the end, there's a good chance that Mark III will soon be in your showrooms. --Dick Adler

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Harold was on the 405 Freeway in the South Bay Curve when he looked in his rearview mirror and saw the Buick Riviera moving up behind him. it pulled even with him in the fast lane and he looked over and saw there were four of them, black hair slicked back, Dago T's showing the tattoos on their muscled shoulders. Gangbangers. What the hell did they want? He half expected them to pull out guns and start blasting.

But no, they were smiling. Smiling and nodding, checking out his car and liking what they saw: a Bahama green '64 Chevy Impala SS with a 340-horse engine. The last of the muscle machines. The Buick's driver gave Harold thumbs-up, put his foot down, and disappeared in traffic, glasspacks rumbling. That's life in LA, Harold thought, realizing all over again how bizarre this city was.

He had lived here his whole life until he was forced to leave the country last year because of a couple of murders he didn't commit. Now, he was back to straighten things out. Repair the damage he had done to Vikki's life, and his own, and -- who knows? -- make some nice money in the process. He'd planned it out while living in Chile and, from there, it seemed like it'd be a piece of cake. But now that he was back on the restless streets of LA, he had that edgy feeling again, the feeling that here, nothing was a done deal. Everything was up for grabs.

He took the Hawthorne Exit and began the climb into the Palos Verdes Hills to Vikki's house. Twenty minutes later he parked next to the gates to the big house, under the jacaranda trees dropping purple flowers on the quiet street.

Vikki was in the garage, bending over the engine of an Austin Healey Mark III with a FOR SALE sign in the windshield. He was tempted to stand there and admire this view of her, but the last thing he needed was to have her turn and catch him at it so he cleared his throat and said, "Don't see many of those anymore. What is it? A '62?"

Her face came out from under the hood and she stood up, staring at him, realizing who he was and not liking it at all, and finally said, "The hell do you want?"

"I'm Harold Dodge. I met you --"

"I know who you are."

She held a 12 millimeter box-end wrench, her muscled forearms smeared black to the elbow. There was nothing, he thought, quite as sexy as a woman with grease on her hands and a chip on her shoulder.

"Problem with those" -- Harold nodded at the Healey -- "you could never balance those S.U. carburetors. Thing runs okay, but it won't idle."

"That's why I swapped them out for Webers," she said. "Only an asshole would run one of these with S.U.s. And it's not a '62, it's a '63."

He realized that she thought he was testing her, seeing if she really did know cars -- and obviously she did -- so he let that subject die, paused, laughed apologetically, and said, "You've changed since I saw you in Chile last year."

"I guess I had to, didn't I?" she said, pushing back a strand of blond hair with an ungreased patch on the back of her wrist.

Harold could see her breath coming fast, chest rising and falling under the denim shirt, blue eyes shining like polished chrome. She reached into her breast pocket and lifted an unfiltered cigarette out of the pack and straight up into her mouth. The cigarette, with one small grease mark, bobbed unlit, as she talked.

"One day I'm leading the good life -- your basic high-maintenance woman. I mean, hey, my husband owns the biggest car dealership in LA, so I'm loaded, right? Then my husband disappears -- I don't know if he's dead or alive. Suddenly, it's up to me to provide for this mansion on the hill. Four grand a month in mortgage. Plus I find out my husband was up to his ass in debt, and it looks like I might lose everything -- I mean everything -- so, yeah, I guess maybe I have changed."

Harold felt this scene wasn't going well, not at all like he pictured it, so he said, "Maybe I can help."

Her hands stopped, lighter halfway to the unlit cigarette: "There's only one thing you can tell me that will help. Where's my husband?"

He paused, wanting to make it easier, but finally just said, "In the morgue, up in Santa Barbara."

That stopped her cold and he could almost hear her thinking, So he really is dead then. He really is dead, and in that moment he saw the attitude fall away like a mask and she was fresh and vulnerable and very beautiful.

A phone began ringing inside the big house and she said, "I'm sorry," and pushed past him and disappeared inside. Through the door he could hear her voice, unsteady as she said, "Yeah, it's still for sale -- a '63 Mark III with a rebuilt engine. I'm asking seven grand, but make me an offer."

Harold stood there in the silent garage, smelling the gasoline and carburetor cleaner and thinking how, when he had last seen her, she was a California blonde -- a bimbo, really -- not his type at all. But she wasn't perfect anymore. She was angry and banged up and even aged a little bit. And that changed everything. A woman like this he could go for.

Besides that, it was great to find a woman he could talk cars with.

From the outside, Vikki's house looked like a damn palace. But as Harold moved inside from the garage he saw the rooms were empty, the furniture sold for cash, he assumed. Even the chandelier in the dining room was gone, the wires taped off and dangling. Blocks of mismatched paint on the walls showed where pictures had been, depressions in the carpet where furniture had stood. Room after room, stripped and abandoned like a stolen car.

He found Vikki in a room at the top of the stairs. The shelves lining the walls were bare except for a few framed photos that had fallen facedown in the dust. She was leaning against the window frame, finally smoking the cigarette, looking out at the ocean, wind blowing the tops off the waves and the mountains of Catalina like ghosts over the horizon of the Pacific. Harold noticed that little lines were appearing around her eyes now that she was, what, maybe thirty, thirty-three. But she still looked great. Hell, she'd probably look great for about another two decades.

She turned away from the window and straightened, her eyes raking him. "So okay. So you're after the money, right?"

"Money?"

"You want money for telling me about Joe. You're like those private detectives, or those lawyers that keep calling. You're after a cut of the insurance money."

"I -- look, I'm no lawyer -- i.e., I hate those bloodsuckers."

"Then why'd you come back?"

"I have some family problems to take care of. My dad's sick and...well, I figured it was time to tell you."

She was staring at him, maybe wondering whether to believe him, so he continued the little speech he'd heard in his head so many times: "Lot of crazy stuff happened last year. I screwed things up pretty bad. So what I want to do is straighten things out."

"Straighten things out? Excuse me, but I don't really think you can straighten things out. And for you to even propose it is the most asinine thing I've ever heard."

Harold knew she had to say those things. So he took it, listening to wind outside and watching the anger in her face. Then he softly said, "I can't explain why it happened. My ex used to say, 'You've got a storm around you.' She's right. But I'm doing my best to put that behind me now. And I don't know where else to start but here, with you, telling you what I know."

It probably wasn't his words, but it might have been the feeling behind them that dissolved the anger in her eyes. He took a step toward the door.

"You gotta understand -- it screwed up my life too. Hell, I almost wound up in prison. So I had to let things cool off first. So now you know. Sorry I couldn't say anything sooner.

When she didn't speak, he said, "Well, good luck," and slowly walked out the

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