Saturday, March 30, 2019

Book Reviews: Man Eater

Man Eater
by Gar Anthony Haywood
This book is seemingly written deliberately to be very similar to Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard, screwcap films by Preston Sturges, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and perhaps most of all to Everybody Smokes in Hell by John Ridley. As many of the #metoo, Sony hack and related allegations and revelations have shown Hollywood can be an amoral, even immoral cutthroat environment where everyone is out to get over on everybody else and maybe get laid in the process. 

Like the stories referenced, Man Eater posits that the streets and their twisted tenets of respect, honor and vengeance really aren't all that different from Hollywood. The stakes are higher in the streets perhaps but it's really the same game. People who travel between both environments find that they can navigate each of them quite comfortably.

Ronnie Deal is a mid level project executive for a Hollywood studio. She has a secret past which she doesn't share with anyone, least of all her insincere female boss and a male peer who's trying to prevent Ronnie from moving up the ladder by any means necessary. Ronnie is also stunningly attractive, something which she cynically uses when she thinks it's necessary.

Having been temporarily embarrassed and outmaneuvered by her aforementioned male rival, causing her to lose a movie deal that took months to put together, Ronnie travels to a bar after work to stew over the insults and general sexism of the world. She's in no mood then, to watch quietly as a intimidating muscular man named Neon Polk starts to harass and assault a tiny woman named Antsy Carruth. Surprising herself with her aggression and fearlessness, Ronnie decides to strike one for the sisterhood by sucker punching Neon upside the head with a beer bottle before doing a Texas two step on his face. Both women flee before Neon can recover from the surprise beatdown.

But Ronnie made a big mistake. Neon is not just a run of the mill bar bully or domestic abuser. He's one of the West Coast's most dreaded hitmen, collectors and enforcers. Neon has literally made other gangsters wet themselves in fear of confronting him. Antsy Carruth and her boyfriend stole money from Neon's employer. Neon was trying to recover it. A true psychopath, Neon can't tolerate anyone, particularly a woman, beating him. Any and all insults to his ego must be handled in the most severe fashion possible. Neon can't live with himself otherwise. Neon quickly tracks Ronnie down and puts the fear of Neon in her. He also demands money from her-$50,000 or else.

Ellis Langford is an ex-con and aspiring screenwriter. He tried to defend his wife from assault in a barroom. Things went sideways and Ellis spent eight years in prison for manslaughter. Now he delivers pizza while trying to reconnect with his wife and daughter. Although Ellis is at heart a good man you don't survive eight years in prison without learning to internalize and adhere to some rather rigid ideas about masculinity and self-defense. When hulking sibling drug dealers Jorge and Jaime Ayala rob and beat Ellis just for fun, Ellis shows that he's not the one.

Desperate and looking for help, reading over Ellis' screenplay, Ronnie deduces that Ellis must have been in prison. So Ellis must know things. And perhaps he can help her with Neon. But Ellis is suspicious and wary. Ellis is a lot smarter than Ronnie initially realizes. Ellis has no desire to go back to prison or be a patsy for a rich woman in over her head. Ellis' parole officer Rolo is sniffing around. He doesn't dislike Ellis but he's not going to give Ellis any breaks either. Ellis despite everything does have a soft heart for women in trouble. Of course not everyone is always being 100% truthful. This book was about 250 pages. There is violence but the author doesn't revel in it. There are a few comedic elements but not as many as you might think.
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