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Tough Luck [Paperback]

Jason Starr

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Book Description

1 Jan 2004
Mickey Prada is a nice kid, with a nicegirlfriend, a close dad, and a job at theneighbourhood seafood market in Brooklyn. But whenhe gets mixed up with a gambling junkie on alosing streak, Mickey is forced to take up acan't-lose caper with his best friend Chris. Butsure-fire schemes have a way of backfiring, andthis one is sending Mickey and Chris to fry likefish in uncharted territory of Brooklyn...

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More About the Author

Jason Starr, author of Cold Caller, Nothing Personal, Fake I.D., Hard Feelings and Tough Luck was born in Brooklyn in 1966 and still lives in New York City. After completing a degree in economics at Binghampton University, Starr has concentrated on his classic noir crime fiction, which has been compared to the work of James Cain and Jim Thompson.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age in Noir-land 27 Jan 2003
By J Scott Morrison - Published on
Poor Mickey Prada is an 18-year-old shlemiel without a clue. He's just graduated from high school, has no idea what he wants to do with his life. He works at a fish market, is more or less supporting his father who has had strokes and has dementia. He primarily hangs out with his buddies, bowling, betting a little on football, striking out with girls.
And then a guy named Angelo comes into the store to buy some shrimp, complains that his bookie is out of town. Mickey agrees to place a bet for him, Angelo's team loses and he demands a chance to make his money back by placing another bet, Mickey is too frightened to refuse, and . . . well, you get the idea. The kid's life is now careering out of control and we're led into a noirish, frenetic, and, thanks to Starr's skill, funny rush that ends . . . well . . . Read the book!
It's all skilfully done, a nice follow-up to Starr's previous 'Cold Caller.'
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Want a look at unknown Brooklyn? 15 Mar 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Never read anything by this guy before this, but I sure will now! Wow! A master of concise character development, Starr has put together one gem of a fast reading look at the life of a young man trapped in his life in Brooklyn. You can only hang on for the ride as Mickey Prada makes one poor decision after another and watches his life go down the toilet. A likable enough guy, Mickey is not too bright. His inability to size up the situations in which he finds himself leads to the destruction of the limited life he knows. Crisp clipped dialogue and scenes rife with local color and characters give this short novel a stunning vibrancy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor to Jim Thompson 14 Mar 2004
By D. Ross - Published on
The greats of noir fiction had a way of putting you inside the heads of the disenfranchised, the losers, even stone-cold, psychopathic killers. And the most skillful among them -- say, a Jim Thompson -- had the reader gradually empathasizing with these outcasts. Jason Starr can stand toe to toe with any of these authors. His _Tough Luck_ is an expertly written story.
Mickey Prada is a poor kid trying to make good. Working in a fish market while saving for college, he also takes care of his Alzheimer's-ridden Dad. Things are going pretty well for Mickey until a slick-looking mobster walks into the fish shop. Angelo Santoro starts talking football and betting with Mickey. Before long, Mickey's placing 'good faith' bets for Angelo. And Angelo keeps losing. Now Mickey's in the hole to his bookie and Angelo won't make good on his debt.
In order to get out of hock, his lifelong friend Chris proposes a house burglary with a few of their buddies. It'll be easy money, what with the homeowners on vacation. And Mickey will surely be able to pay off the bookie and maybe pick up some nice trinkets for his new girlfriend. It all sounds so simple. But nothing goes quite as you might expect -- and none of the well-drawn characters will ever be the same after _this_ caper.
Starr writes with exquisite attention to detail. The jargon of the early eighties... the fashion... the culture... all are snapshots wrapped around the realistic foibles of each character. I'll definitely be picking up the rest of Starr's books. It's easily some of the best noir fiction going.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book! 30 May 2014
By Charles Kelly - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love all of Jason Starr's books, and this is one of his best. A young man with the best intentions gets inexorably drawn into a world of manipulation and murder. Believe me, you won't be able to look away.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hardboiled like it was yesterday... 13 Jun 2007
By Mark Nadja - Published on
Jason Starr has made a career writing novels like *Tough Luck.* They invariably tell the story of a relatively ordinary guy with some modest aspirations and a few flaws. The modest aspirations lead him into trouble and the few flaws end up magnified into grotesque proportions. One bad choice leads to another, and, to paraphrase Schopenhauer, ends with the worst of all possible choices. As a reader, you watch, helpless, and gruesomely fascinated, as the main character tries to do the equivalent of wiping away a speck of lint from a white suit with hands covered in red ink. It's a formula as old as Og the Caveman, but in the hands of a writer like Jason Starr it still works to perfection.

In *Tough Luck,* the ordinary guy is Mickey Prada--a 19-year-old working at a Brooklyn fish market. Mickey is going to college next fall. He's just taking a year off to save some money and take care of his ailing father. He's got plans, you see. He's not going to be gutting halibut for the rest of his life. One day a local comes in for his usual order of shrimp. He asks Mickey to do him a favor: place a bet for him with a neighborhood bookie. The guy is always well-dressed, sharp, an obvious player. A good guy for a guy with big plans to know. No?


A bad choice it was to place that bet. The speck on the white suit. By the time Mickey is finished trying to pluck that speck off, he's practically drenched in blood--armed robbery, assault, murder. How could doing someone a simple favor possibly lead to all this? Mickey Prada shows you, step-by-step, with one seemingly well-thought-out, but unexpectedly disastrous, decision after another. The vicarious thrill the reader gets watching how quickly a normal life can veer into criminal nightmare has always been the chief appeal of this brand of hardboiled mystery and *Tough Luck* has that thrill in spades.

Starr writes a very serviceable, straightforward prose. He doesn't get in the way of the story. There isn't anything snazzy about his style, nothing distinctive or even memorable; it's an invisible style, like porn, the narrated events are everything, the only thing. There isn't a lot of interiority. Mickey Prada isn't a deep thinker. He isn't Raskolnikov. Starr provides just enough insight into Mickey's thinking; then he records the disaster that follows from there.

For what it is, a throwback to the gritty fiction of writers like Jim Thompson, *Tough Luck* is a fast, fun, and harrowing read that works on a small stage to tell a big story: the Homeric tragedy of the little guy trying to escape his predestined fall.
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