Callbacks. We’ve all seen them used effectively in film, writing, even comedy acts. The creator/author/writer plants a seed early on and then circles back to a seemingly insignificant fact later on. This is the trademark of great mystery writers. It’s a gem for series writers, and it’s even used by musicians from time to time.
Imagine being a writer and getting a chance to revisit your old work, and to add a new element that creates a callback to everything you’ve done in the last seven years. Thriller-Humor-Horror-Sci-fi author J.A. Konrath gave himself just that chance by resurrecting an old guilty pleasure, and revising it with his most popular characters to date.
Konrath is best known for his series featuring Chicago Homicide Detective Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels. The series has run six novels to date, introduced a wide range of unforgettable characters, and put many of them through situations no reader would ever want to endure. Jacqueline’s first appearance is in the must-read novel, “Whiskey Sour, “which opens with a body hacked into pieces outside of a convenience store, accompanied by a sickening note from a psycho killer.
“Shot of Tequila” provided Konrath the rare chance authors have to revise earlier works. The sixth novel written by the author, according to his own notes, Tequila has always represented a bit of a guilty pleasure. Instead of trying to seek publication ten years after its initial release, Joe did the unspeakable. He rewrote the novel, changed the characters, provided some insight into his best-known character, and released the book for free. Konrath has never feared experimenting with his works to expand his audience, and authors and readers alike will benefit from checking out his blog, “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.”
“Shot of Tequila” is not a Jack Daniels book. Jackie is only a supporting character (as are other series favorites) in this story. Tequila is a diminutive cleaner with his own motivations for taking on the employment of a well-connected bookie. He’s short but amazingly athletic, and the guy who can win a shooting tournament, hands-down, because he prepares better than anyone.
Tequila works for Marty the Maniac, a one-time badass who has moved up from hands-on torturer to big-time connected man. He has his own group of collectors to handle the dough, now. Some of his cronies are muscle heads. Others are sociopaths. Tequila, well, Tequila remains the steady soldier…until Super Bowl Sunday.
Marty the Maniac is robbed of over a million bucks and all signs point to Tequila as the one committing the inside job. Every detail, right down to tattoos, backs up Marty’s reasoning to pull out every stop and to nail the small man and get his money back. Video tape, testimony and the word of his own men puts Tequila on the scene.
The second half of the novel has readers sympathizing with a hired-gun who survives through unbelievable antics. Fans of John McClane, Bruce Willis’ best role in “Die Hard”, or Frank Martin, the character that launched Jason Statham to prominence in “The Transporter” will instantly cling to Tequila, his desperate measures and the reasons behind his actions.
“Shot of Tequila” winds several deadly players up and sets them on a collision course. The titular character has his motivations for his daily grind and once his life is destroyed, he is faced with defining himself. Marty is a desperate man, staring at a crumbling house of cards, and he needs to find answers quick. Jack follows a trail that consistently warps and changes throughout her investigation.
Author Konrath once again proves the way to make a character enjoyable is to give him something readers can connect with, and then pile impossible odds up against him. Tequila isn’t a hard-coded badass without feelings. Readers will make an emotional connection with him, and indulge in some bonus time with everyone’s favorite
“Shot of Tequila” is a well-paced, action-driven story, with a touch of mobster swagger and noir reminiscent of Raymond Chandler.
And for the price…it can’t be beat.