STARRED REVIEW
January 26, 2016

Complications for an accidental hero

By Scott Frank

Crime novelist Elmore Leonard once said writers should “try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” That’s advice Scott Frank clearly takes to heart in his debut novel, Shaker. Frank captures the underbelly of Los Angeles’ streets to perfection with sharply written prose and biting dialogue. There are no wasted words here, as right from the start things take an unexpected turn and the complications begin to multiply for main character Roy Cooper.

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Crime novelist Elmore Leonard once said writers should “try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” That’s advice Scott Frank clearly takes to heart in his debut novel, Shaker. Frank captures the underbelly of Los Angeles’ streets to perfection with sharply written prose and biting dialogue. There are no wasted words here, as right from the start things take an unexpected turn and the complications begin to multiply for main character Roy Cooper.

Cooper isn’t the sort of character readers expect or want to spend a lot of time with—he’s a killer on a mission, ruthless and efficient. But in typical Leonard fashion, Frank takes Cooper from unlikable killer to sympathetic loner. Sent to jail as a kid to protect his mother and baby brother, Cooper grows up fast in prison under the tutelage of fellow inmate/mentor Albert Budin, who continues to play an influence in his life long after their release from prison.

Cooper’s on a job to kill a money-skimming accountant in sunny LA when he stumbles into a back-alley mugging by four teenage gangbangers. Though he’s unable to save the victim of the gang’s assault, his efforts instantly garner him media status as a hero. This attention to his deeds works against him, however, as the gang sets out for revenge, a nosy detective suspects Cooper’s not all he appears to be and Cooper’s old mentor, Budin, is sent to clean up his mess.

Best known for his screenplays Little Man Tate, Minority Report, The Interpreter, Marley & Me and The Wolverine, Frank collaborated with Leonard on both Out of Sight and Get Shorty. In Shaker, Frank deftly blends action with flashbacks that allow us to get close to these characters and learn their motivations and flaws. The result is a richly layered crime story that is at times moving, humorous and, more often than not, violently bloody.

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Shaker

Shaker

By Scott Frank
Knopf
ISBN 9780385350037

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