From: James R. Winter ( winter_writes@earthlink.net)
Date: 29 Sep 2005

You have to love this period, the early 90's, for Roberts. The Saxon outing, A CARROT FOR THE DONKEY, gives us a Tijuana that, while only hinting at the sleaze kent Harrington later describes in DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, made me want to take a shower after I read it.

But Milan Jacovich, the big Slovenian from the Heights on Cleveland's Eastside, isn't an actor picking up cash between gigs. He's an ex-cop whose black and white view of the world makes Amos Walker look damned wishy-washy. Just ask Mary, Milan's girlfriend.

Milan is asked by a childhood friend to look into his son's activities. The boy is a friend of Milan's sons, and Milan Jr. says he's become something of an outcast. Milan watches the boy and finds him dealing drugs for a slick Jamaican named Deshon. A confrontation with Deshon leads Milan to four people: an albino named Johnny, a car dealer named Waco Morgan, a real estate agent with the unlikely name of Christmas Amboy, and...

Don Giancarlo D'Allessandro, a frequent nemesis of Milan's, and just as often, an unwanted ally.

The police want Milan to butt out. Milan doesn't care. He keeps pulling strings even when the boy's parents tell him to stop for fear he'll be killed. The drug ring has very good reasons for wanting Milan to butt out. However, when Giancarlo's nephew, the suave neo-wise guy Victor Gaimari, calls Milan on the carpet for his rigid views, Milan starts to wonder how many friends he has left. He claims it's his old-fashioned Yugoslavian heritage, why Serbs and Croats and Slovenians don't get along. That's what he tells himself, but in the end, the reader, at least, knows Milan is just a stubborn jackass. It's his best character trait, but it also nearly gets himself killed.

Milan's a blue collar sort working a blue collar town. You can tell, though, this was written about the time when Roberts moved to Cleveland as details of the city seem to multiply. Sadly, one detail, the state of the east side of town, is as accurate today as it was 15 years ago when this was written. The area between Midtown and Collinwood remains an embarrassment to the city. In this story, it's fertile ground for someone to fill the crack void left by the mob.

For the longest time, DEEP SHAKER remained out of print, which is ashame. This is probably the most solid of the early Jacovich novels, with Roberts' final salvo considered the best. (It's still hard to top THE IRISH SPORTS PAGES for me.) Now, however, Gray & Co. has brought the first few book of the series back, with St. Martin's continuing to publish the rest of the series. So while I read this in a tattered paperback (purchased about two weeks before Les shot the email out saying the old books were now in trade), you have a chance to pick up a fresh copy.

Respectfully submitted by

Jim Winter

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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