Reviewed by Ian Thomas Shaw
Vancouver author Dietrich Kalteis nails it in his latest novel, The Deadbeat Club. The story, set in Canada's favourite and largest ski resort, Whistler, B.C., blends Western Coast laid-backness with big-city gangsterism.
The story centres around Grey Stevens, whose romantic life has taken a turn for the worse with the departure of his long-time girlfriend Tammy, but whose financial fortunes are definitely on the rise since inheriting his uncle's well established pot-growing business. Both these states of affairs change rapidly with the arrival of a spunky punk girl Dara Addie, Nick Roscoe, the son of crime boss Geovani ''Bumpy'' Roscoe, and Travis Rainey, Bumpy's enforcer. Dara, whose dream is to make enough money to get out of her mom's basement, is recruited by Nick to do a weekly run from Whistler to Vancouver as part of the Roscoes' plans to take over the drug business in Whistler. With the province about to approve gambling at the ski resort, the Roscoes forsee a gold mine in selling BC Bud year-around in the West Coast's playround for rich party-goers. But Nick, the ulitmate rich kid asshole, wants more from Dara than just the drug runs. When she says no and he starts beating on her in public, Grey flies in on his trick bike to knock Nick down and rescue her. And Dara is quickly taken to her ''Superboy'' saviour.
Elsewhere in town, Travis Rainey is busy sending a message to Grey and his merry band of drug-peddling skateboarders and bustlers that the Roscoes' offer to make Grey's operation part of their crime syndicate is one they cannot refuse. One of Grey's roommates, Jimmy ''Airdog'' Tran is the first of Travis' victims, losing his front teeth when he does not hook up Travis with Grey quick enough. But while Travis hunts for Grey, he is also hunted. Nav Pudi and his Indo Army are pissed over the killing by Travis of several of their own in a turf war in Vancouver. They track Travis to Whistler, obliging him to call in hardcore biker friends. Spent cartridges and split blood soon litter the mountain resort. To round out the action, Kalteis introduces two local law enforcers, RCMP detectives, Lance Edwards and Jimmy Gallo, who are not shy about wreaking their own wrath on both the bikers and the Indo Army. And to spice up the story a bit, Kalteis throws in Lexie, the local escort service's receptionist with the Cameron Diaz lips who finds her way into Travis Rainey's heart.
Kalteis' The Deadbeat Club is noir humour West Coast style. The army of badasses in the likes of Travis, Nick, Nav and their gang followers is well balanced by Grey and his thoroughly likeable friends. While the criminals trade bullets and RPG missiles, Grey and his crowd skateboard around them, mellowed out on Eight Mile High and satiated with KD and Rice Chex. While there are definitely elements of ''Pulp Fiction'' in Kalteis' writing, he delivers his tale with more of a PG flair, where soft-pedaled humour wins out over the ample violence.
Dietrich Kalteis is a writer to watch. In The Deadbeat Club, he has demonstrated a real flair in triangulating plot, dialogue and character development to churn out a fabulous page-turner with a good dose of irreverence. And he does an outstanding job at choreographing lightning action scenes involving mutiple characters without losing the readers in the fray. In my view, this is definitely a candidate for a Hollywood North production.
The Deadbeat Club is published by ECW Press.