Title: Walk on the Wild Side
Author: Temple Madison
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 93 Pages
At a Glance: I tried really hard to like this one, but the narration was off-putting, and the lack of character development proved to be too much to make it work for me.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
Blurb: Tall, dark, and dangerous, Reny Stark is from the wrong side of the tracks. A criminal, a thug, and a brawler, he’s the best at making bad choices, until one such choice landed him in prison for five years. Now Reny is out and has a great big chip on his shoulder. Having lost everything, he has no future. He’s unemployable, and the only place he can afford to live is in a cheap rundown room in the plague pit of New York City called Gangland. At one time he didn’t care what he had to do to stay alive, but now he’s trying to stay clean — but the gangs won’t let him. Since he’s not a member of any gang, they’ve fingered him as their assassin, and one night he is forced to honor a contract on someone’s life, or die.
Having little choice, he haunts the city streets until he finds his target, and hates him on sight. He’s everything Reny is not. He’s young, ambitious, good looking, and with a great future ahead of him. This man is so clean he squeaks while Reny is covered in the dirt of the ghetto, stuck with a prison record, and no hope of ever getting out. Because his target has had an easy life, Reny expected a soft, prissy guy that wouldn’t put up much of a fight, but instead he looms hard and tough, and refuses to go down.
Ric Ferrand may be young, but he knows all about living a hard life and the tough choices that come with it. Although he’s always had kind of a yen for the wild side of life he’s tried not to let the evil of the city pull him down. But now the streets are fighting back in the person of Reny Stark, the scariest, sexiest, and most complicated ex-con this big city has ever produced — and this tough guy wants to kill him.
Then something happens that Ric didn’t count on. He slowly gets to know and understand the brute whose next stop is Death Row, and begins to have feelings for him. Taking a big chance, he invites him home where the contract killing gets lost between the sheets making Ric realize some guys are just better when they’re bad.
Review: I hate these types of reviews. They are the worst to try to write, because I have no idea how to put in my honest review without tearing the book apart. I mean, I always have mad respect for people who put their work out there for us to consume and, hopefully, it’s received well. For me, this book wasn’t, and that really sucks. That being said, different strokes, so what doesn’t work for me could very well work for another reader with different preferences.
What didn’t work for me, specifically? My biggest struggle was probably with the narration. It was off-putting and difficult for me to follow. I am one of those readers who prefers that when there is a change in narration, it is explicit in the formatting, and I absolutely am not for it changing from paragraph to paragraph. I don’t care if it’s third or first person POV, I don’t care if it’s present or past tense, but I do care about clearly defined change in perspectives. <i>Walk on the Wild Side</i>’s narration bounces around from third person POV to first person, and then also in between characters, and not seamlessly. There would be sections when it was clear whose perspective I was reading, and then, all of a sudden, there would be a random paragraph thrown in the middle, out of nowhere, from the other character’s perspective. I couldn’t get used to it; it gave me whiplash. Adding in the periodic first person POV isn’t uncommon, and it did happen throughout this book, but there is usually a change in the font, like italics or something else to let the reader know it’s the internal thoughts of the MC. This one didn’t have that, so it just went right into first person, and it was jarring and unexpected.
I get that Reny was supposed to be from Gangland, which is this sort of “off limits to police” area where the worst of the worst congregate, and run their less than legal business dealings. Reny, growing up there, was a born and bred criminal, recently released from prison and trying to never go back. I liked the concept and even periodically felt a little bad for Reny for his bad luck. The bones were there to really build upon his situation, and the crappy no-win one he found himself, which is what drew me to the book in the blurb. But, in the end, he wasn’t a defined enough character for me to connect, and, truthfully, I had a hard time picturing him being this bada** guy I was expecting from the blurb.
Sadly, Reny wasn’t the only one lacking development. The MCs and the secondary characters were not believable. Ric and Reny didn’t really get fleshed out, individually or as a couple. Their meeting was rushed, and there is a very short turn around before they jump into bed together. For me, their interactions just weren’t fluid, and their dialogue was more rushed, random, and lacked conviction. It was also very hard to take the gangs seriously. The gang leader, Piff, was the quintessential embodiment of a villain, with nothing to set him or his cohorts apart and make them interesting, making him come off as a caricature.
The overall dialogue had a sort of subtle 1920s feel, where they called each other “creep” as insults, and the descriptions and terms periodically used seemed to have echoes of a bygone era. To be fair, the blurb led me to believe this might be the case, and I am usually okay with it as long as it works in the world where everything takes place. But, the limited page number didn’t allow for much world building, resulting in language and discourse that didn’t really mesh with the setting.
It was a bit of a struggle for me to continue this one because my preferred reading styles just didn’t align with this particular style of writing and narration. I wish I could recommend it, but in this case, I just can’t.
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