ABC Group's Reviews > No Beast So Fierce

No Beast So Fierce by Edward Bunker
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's review
Nov 01, 12

Read in September, 2011

Bunker's debut novel is hailed by some as a masterpiece of crime fiction. James Ellroy, William Styron and even Quentin Tarantino all sing his praises. Bunker even wound up in Reservoir Dogs as Mr. Blue.

I read a lot of books considered to be crime fiction and Bunker stands apart in what would be more appropriately termed prison fiction. Max Dembo finds himself released from prison after an year stint. Now he's trying to live the life of the straight and narrow. Max's conviction is like that of a new religious convert. He's certain he can go take another path and live a normal life.

Shortly after his release, Max reaches a tipping point and his faith in himself to live an ordinary life is challenged, leading him to change his course of action. To give anything else up here would compromise the story. The important part to note is the tipping point.

Bunker has a keen sense of the criminal mind. He himself spent many years in prison in the first half of his life, and that bleeds through in No Beast So Fierce. The mindset of a habituated criminal is so well articulated in this novel I found myself agreeing with Max Dembo, despite some of the clearly unethical things he exacts upon himself and those around him. It's oddly unnerving how quickly Dembo was able to convince me of his righteousness.

Overall, Edward Bunker is becoming a quick favorite of mine. He's a bit wordsmithy at times (I reached for my dictionary a lot) and that can come off as if he's trying a bit hard, but he did write this book in prison, and if I were in his shoes, I'd likely show my chops from time to time as well. A very strong debut, I highly recommend this novel to any fans of crime fiction but to all readers just the same.

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