Friday, February 23, 2007

"Sleep with the Fishes" by Brian Wiprud

This is a short little entry from Brian Wiprud, author of novels full of quirky characters and usually one-word titles, such as "Pipsqueak", "Stuffed", and "Crooked". I thought this was a new novel, but it sure didn't feel like it when I was reading it. After a bit of digging this morning, I know why - this was originally written and published on demand back in 2001. Probably makes this his first book to hit the public, and I hate to say it, but it shows.

Sid "Sleep" Bifulco is a retired hit-man. He refused to go into the Witness Protection Program, preferring to cut a deal with not only the justice system but also a rival mob family. He figures with all these deals, he'll have it made when he gets out of jail (he serves a fairly short sentence for his crimes). While in jail, he wanted to learn to fish, but was denied access to any water. However, the warden did let him have lots of magazines and even let him start up some of his collection of gear, making Sid perhaps the only mobster airmchair fisherman.

After getting sprung, Sid just wants to find a nice quiet place to live, preferably one near a lake or a river, so he can start being a real fisherman. Enter the town of Hellbender Eddy and the crazy folks that live there. Sid's neighbor, Russ, is the local "fish guide" who knows all the sweet spots. Russ and Sid have a past, although they don't realize it at first. There's also Big Bob and Little Bob, two highway construction workers who figure prominently into the action, particularly Little Bob's new videocamera. There's Chik, the local diner owner/operator, who also has a thing for videocameras, especially writing, directing and starring in home movies that require little in the way of costumes. There's Jenny, who runs a fish farm and keeps the local lakes stocked. And then there's Omer Phillips, another mob-connected man, who comes in trying to keep all the players straight and hopefully alive.

It should be a bunch of wacky fun. I'll admit, there were some funny parts, but overall, I found this to be less fun than his other books. I mused over it and think I came up with why - character development. There are a lot of people on the canvas here, and I don't really feel like I know any of them any better than when I started the book. Also, they felt a bit stereotypical, which is a bummer. Perhaps it was because the book was short, just barely clocking in over 200 pages. That's not a lot of time to develop this many characters. Or perhaps it's because this was an earlier work (and definitely felt it). I may never know. But I think the lack of development is what hurts this book.

I went to Wiprud's website, and it turns out he's planning on writing a "long-awaited" sequel to this book, tentatively titled "Dirt Nap". I'll visit with Sid and the gang again, I'm sure, but I'm hoping that there's more to them this go around. In the meantime, look for "Tailed" coming in May this year - our fave taxidermist Garth Carson is back for more mayhem!

No comments: