three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
By: 
Jess Walter
user_rating: 
0

A-CitizenVinceThirty-something Vince Camden didn’t relocate to Spokane, Washington to become a better citizen. It was enough to find work (managing a donut shop), a new girl (a part-time prostitute who aspires to a career in real estate), and a new hangout (Sam’s Pit, a late night BBQ joint). But as the 1980 presidential election approaches, Vince is tortured by the difficulties of making an informed vote—especially since it will be his first. A felon since he was a teenager, Vince embraces the new civic duty afforded him by the Federal Witness Relocation Program. Problem is the mobsters he informed on have followed him to his new home and have some civic duty of their own they’d like to enact. Will it be Carter, Reagan, or his life?
Regan Books. 293 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 0060394412

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Maybe if Aaron Copland had written the score for a film noir starring the Marx Brothers there would be some prototype for Walter’s fusion fiction, but he didn’t and there isn’t. And the best thing about Citizen Vince is that it isn’t one of those antic-for-the-sake-of-being-offbeat literary efforts; instead, this is a compelling novel whose motivating questions are deadly earnest …"
Maureen Corrigan

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Citizen Vince is a cruller of a crime novel: Despite the empty calories, it’s twisty, it’s surprisingly light, and it goes down real easy." Thom Geier

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"It takes no mean bravado for the author to climb out on this particular limb … for [Vince], the democratic process has become invested with real hope and seriousness. It’s the brightest spot on the landscape of a man who sees everything else as moribund. Citizen Vince would be refreshing even if it had no other merits than that." Janet Maslin

Spokesman Review 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s as much a cultural commentary as it is a mystery, as much a character study as it is a tale of mob guys and the damage they do, as much an exploration of what the simple act of voting means to one man as it is an exercise in ironic humor." Dan Webster

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"It’s a book that speaks of intangibles like hope and redemption as authoritatively as it depicts gangsters, hookers, and high-stakes poker games." Adam Woog

Critical Summary

Jess Walter, who steps back in history for his third novel, brings back an "utterly inventive" tale of crime and politics (Washington Post). Walter, whose previous books include Land of the Blind and a non-fiction account of the Ruby Ridge massacre, Every Knee Shall Bow, seems to have found his stride as a novelist. Critics praise the author’s ability to straddle—or shatter—the conceits of the mystery novel, while offering a sincere, at times hilarious, rumination on the challenges of citizenship and the price of freedom. Except for the Seattle Times’s vote against the stream of consciousness chapters that delve into Reagan and Carter’s minds, the pundits all agree: Citizen Vince is the real deal.