Review: Every Last Drop, by Charlie Huston

Certain books just take over my life.  I read the first line and that’s it.  The dishes pile up in the sink.  Laundry hangs neglected on the clothes line.  I let the machine take my calls.  Three or four days later, book finished, I come up for air and survey the devastation.  Not every book gets to me this way, of course.  But every book by Charlie Huston does.

Charlie is amazing.  A high school dropout and erstwhile bartender, schooled only by a voracious appetite for books and movies, Huston writes the smoothest, toughest noir prose I’ve ever read.  Though not yet a bestseller, Charlie manages to earn a living from writing alone.  How?  Huston writes two books a year, every year.  One straightforward pulp novel, and one entry in the Joe Pitt Casebooks.

Every Last Drop is the fourth and penultimate installment in the Casebooks.  Joe is vampire exiled from a Manhattan balkanized by hidden vampire clans, a punishment he could endure if he’d been able to take his girlfriend, Evie, over the river with him.  To get back on the island, Joe takes a job spying on an old friend, Amanda Horde.  Young, rich, brilliant and crazy, Amanda thinks she can cure the vampire virus, an idea the power elite of the clans won’t tolerate.  But Horde has problems of her own.  He followers need blood, and she’s hoping Joe can get it.

All Joe wants is to see Evie.  Instead, he pinballs between The Casebooks’ usual suspects.  Terry Bird, the deceptively hippie-like leader of The Society.  The just plain deceptive Dexter Predo, security chief for the corporate Coalition.  Phil, the junkie snitch with rockabilly pretensions.  And the Enclave, a sect of vampire monks gearing up to massacre the human race.  Along the way, Joe discovers the secret behind the Coalition’s blood supply, the revelation of which could lead war between all the clans.

While Every Last Drop is clearly a setup for the fifth and final Joe Pitt novel, it still provides many pleasures.  Chief among these are Huston’s spot-on dialog and sharply drawn side characters.  There’s a great little scene where Joe, ever the tough guy, makes his apologies to Hurley, Terry Bird’s hulking Irish bodyguard, who got machine-gunned in the previous book.  There’s some equally good play by play between Joe and Esperanza Benjamin, his neighbor and wannabe lady friend in The Bronx.  And Amanda Horde’s Joe Pitt impression is funny as hell.

At the heart of the novel, as always, is Evie.  Joe’s love for her is the source of all his problems, and the only thing keeping him human.  Like Philip Marlowe, Joe Pitt is a tough guy with a soft spot.  I can hardly wait for the final book, to see what Joe must do to preserve the one person he loves.

Though Every Last Drop is on shelves now, it may not be the best place to start.  If Joe Pitt sounds like your kind of thing, get ahold of book one, Already Dead.  If straight noir suits you better, try Caught Stealing, the first installment of the now complete Henry Thompson Trilogy.  Or try The Shotgun Rule, Huston’s paean to stupid teenage antics, set in Altamont in the summer of 1983.  Whichever one you try, I guarantee you’ll come back for more.  Just be sure you wash the dishes first.

Dave Hurwitz

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