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The author of The Death and Life of Bobby Z. and The Power of the Dog now gives us a fierce and funny new novel—and a blistering new take on the Mafia story.
Frank Machianno is a late-middle-aged ex–surf bum who runs a bait shack on the San Diego waterfront when he’s not juggling any of his other three part-time jobs or trying to get a quick set in on his longboard. He’s a stand-up businessman, a devoted father to his daughter, and a beloved fixture in the community.
Frank’s also a hit man. Specifically: a retired hit man. Back in the day, when he was one of the most feared members of the West Coast Mafia, he was known as Frankie Machine. Years ago Frank consigned his Mob ties to the past, which is where he wants them to stay. But a favor being called in now by the local boss is one Frank can’t refuse, and soon he’s sucked back into the treacherous currents of his former life. Someone from the past wants him dead. He has to figure out who, and why, and he has to do it fast.
The problem is that the list of candidates is about the size of his local phone book and Frank’s rapidly running out of time.
And then things go really bad.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Don Winslow is a former private investigator and consultant. He lives in California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It's a lot of work being me.
Is what Frank Machianno thinks when the alarm goes off at 3:45 in the morning. He rolls right out of the rack and feels the cold wooden floor on his feet.
It is a lot of work being him.
Frank pads across the wooden floor, which he personally sanded and varnished, and gets into the shower. It only takes him a minute to shower, which is one reason that he keeps his silver hair cut short.
"So it doesn't take long to wash it" is what he tells Donna when she complains about it.
It takes him thirty seconds to dry off; then he wraps the towel around his waist—of which there's a little more these days than he'd like—shaves, and brushes his teeth. His route to the kitchen takes him through his living room, where he picks up a remote, hits a button, and speakers start to blast "Che gelida manina." One of the nice things about living alone—maybe the only good thing about living alone, Frank thinks—is that you can play opera at 4:00 a.m. and not bother anyone. And the house is solid, with thick walls like they used to build in the old days, so Frank's early morning arias don't disturb the neighbors, either.
Frank has a pair of season tickets to the San Diego Opera, and Donna is kind enough to pretend that she really enjoys going with him. She even pretended not to notice when he cried at the end of La Bohème when Mimi died.
Now, as he walks into the kitchen, he sings along with Victoria de los Angeles:
". . . ma quando vien lo sgelo,
"il primo sole e mio
"il primo bacio dell'aprile e mio!
"il primo sole e mio! . . ."
Frank loves his kitchen.
He laid the classic black-and-white floor tile himself and put in the counters and cabinets with the help of a carpenter buddy. He found the old butcher block in an antique store in Little Italy. It was in tough shape when he bought it—dried out and starting to crack—and it took him months of rubbing oil to get it back into prime condition. But he loves it for its flaws, its old chips and scars—"badges of honor," he calls them, from years and years of faithful service.
"See, people used this thing," he told Donna when she asked why he didn't just buy a new one, which he could easily afford. "You get close, you can even smell where they used to chop the garlic."
"Italian men and their mothers," Donna said.
"My mother was a good cook," Frank replied, "but it was my old man who could really cook. He taught me."
And taught him good, Donna thought at the time. Whatever else you want to think about Frank Machianno—such as he can be a genuine pain in the ass—the man can cook. The man also knows how to treat a woman. And maybe the two attributes aren't unrelated. Actually, it was Frank who introduced this idea to her.
"Making love is like making a good sauce," he said to her one night in bed during the "afterglow."
"Frank, quit while you're ahead," she told him.
He didn't. "You have to take your time, use just the right amount of the right spices, savor each one, then slowly turn the heat up until it bubbles."
The unique charm of Frank Machianno, she thought, lying there next to him, is that he just compared your body to a bolognese and you don't kick his ass out of bed. Maybe it's that he really does care so much. She has sat in the car while he's driven back and forth across town, going to five different stores for five different ingredients for a single dish. ("The sausiche is better at Cristafaro's, Donna.") He brings the same attention to detail into the bedroom, and the man can make, shall we say, the sauce bubble.
This morning, like every morning, he takes raw Kona coffee beans from a vacuum-sealed jar and spoons them into the little roaster he bought from one of those chef's catalogs he's always getting in the mail.
Donna gives him endless crap about the coffee bean thing.
"Get an automatic maker with one of those timers," she said. "Then it would be ready when you get out of the shower. You could even sleep a few minutes later."
"But it wouldn't be as good."
"It's a lot of work being you," Donna said.
What can I say? Frank thought. It is.
"You've heard of the phrase 'quality of life'?" he asked her.
"I have," Donna said. "Usually referring to the terminally ill, whether they pull the plug or not."
"This is a quality-of-life issue," Frank replied.
And it is, he thinks this morning as he enjoys the smell of the roasting coffee beans and puts the water on to boil. Quality of life is about the little things—doing them well, doing them right. He takes a small pan from the rack that hangs over the butcher block and puts it on the stovetop. He lays a thin slice of butter in it, and when the butter just starts to bubble, he breaks an egg in the pan, and while it's frying, he slices an onion bagel in half. Then he carefully slips the egg out with a plastic spatula (only plastic—metal would scratch the nonstick surface, which is something Donna can't seem to remember, which is why she's not allowed to cook in Frank's cucina), lays it on one of the slices, puts the other over it, and wraps the egg sandwich in a linen napkin to keep it warm.
Donna, of course, gives him grief about the daily egg.
"It's an egg," he tells her, "not a hand grenade."
"You're sixty-two years old, Frank," she tells him. "You have to watch your cholesterol."
"No, they found that wasn't true about the eggs," he says. "They got a bum rap."
His daughter, Jill, harasses him about it, too. She just graduated premed at UCSD, so of course she knows everything. He tells her otherwise. "You're premed," he says. "When you're med, then you can give me agita about the eggs."
America, Frank thinks—we're the only country in the world afraid of our food.
By the time the lethal egg sandwich is ready, the coffee beans are roasted. He pours them into the grinder for exactly ten seconds, then pours the ground coffee into the French-press maker, pours the boiling water in, and lets it sit for the suggested four minutes.
The minutes aren't wasted.
Frank uses them to get dressed.
"How a civilized human being can get dressed in four minutes is beyond me," Donna has observed.
It's easy, Frank thinks, especially when you lay your clothes out the night before, and you're going to a bait shop. So this morning, he puts on a clean pair of underwear, thick wool socks, a flannel shirt, an old pair of jeans, then sits on the bed and puts on his work boots.
When he goes back into the kitchen, the coffee is ready. He pours it into a metal go cup and takes his first sip.
Frank loves that first taste of coffee. Especially when it's freshly roasted, freshly ground, and freshly made.
Quality of life.
Little things, he thinks, matter.
He puts the lid on the go cup and sets it on the counter as he takes his old hooded sweatshirt from the hook on the wall and puts it on, jams a black wool toque on his head, and takes his car keys and wallet from their assigned place.
Then he takes yesterday's Union-Tribune, from which he's saved the crossword puzzle. He does it late in the morning, when the bait business is slow.
He picks the coffee back up, grabs the egg sandwich, flicks off the stereo, and he's ready to go.
It's winter in San Diego and cold outside.
Okay, relatively cold.
It's not Wisconsin or North Dakota—it's not the painful kind of cold where your engine won't turn over and your face feels like it's going to crack and fall off, but anyplace in the Northern Hemisphere is at least chilly at 4:10 a.m. in January. Especially, Frank thinks as he gets into his Toyota pickup truck, when you're on the wrong side of sixty and it takes a little while for your blood to warm up in the morning.
But Frank loves the early hours. They're his favorite time of the day.
This is his quiet time, the only part of his busy day that's actually tranquil, and he loves to watch the sun come up over the hills east of the city and see the sky over the ocean turn pink as the water changes from black to gray.
But that won't be for a little while.
It's still black out now.
He turns to a local AM station to get the weather report.
Rain and more rain.
A big front moving in from the North Pacific.
He pays half attention as the announcer gives the local news. It's the usual—four more houses in Oceanside have slid down a slope in the mud, the city auditors can't decide if the city is on the verge of bankruptcy or not, and housing prices have risen again.
Then there's the city council scandal—the FBI's Operation G-Sting has resulted in the indictment of four councilmen for taking bribes from strip-club owners to repeal the city ordinance prohibiting "touching" in the clubs. A couple of vice cops have been paid off for looking the other way.
Yeah, it's news and it's not news, Frank thinks. Because San Diego is a port town for the navy, the sex trade has always been a big part of the economy. Bribing a councilman so that a sailor can get a lap dance is practically a civic duty.
But if the FBI wants to waste its time on strippers, it's not...
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Book Description Alfred a Knopf Inc, Westminister, Maryland, U.S.A., 2006. Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 1st ed/1st pr, SIGNED on title page by the author. This book is square, solid, and unread. The dust jacket is glossy and sharp in protective mylar Brodart. -- when you receive this book you'll feel like setting your alarm extra early to make sure you're up in time for a cool breeze, a jaw, and a set of sweet waves with the dawn patrol -- whether you live in SoCal or not!!!. Signed by Author(s). Book. Seller Inventory # 027750
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