Webster’s defines noir as “1: crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings.” Jon Fixx, one of Kirkus Review’s top Indie Books of 2015 is that and more, a madcap mix of noir and romance, a fabulously fun tale of a niche romance writer who’s life’s been on a downward spiral since his girlfriend, Sara, dumped him. The story manages to be predictable in the crime story genre kind of way, and also surprising because the main character is not a sleaze ball, or a criminal, or even a victim, but a guy who just happens to be good at what he does and which lands him in a predicament he can’t write his way out of. What I loved about Jon Fixx was the way the road took a sharp left turn every time you thought you knew where the story was going.
Jon Fixx is a romantic at heart and he’s turned that trait into a lucrative career. He’ll write your love story and package it up all pretty with the help of his best friend, Luci, who handles the artistic content, making you the star of your own show and simultaneously creating a wonderful keepsake to remember the event. Simple, yet elegant, right? Unfortunately for our hero, wrong. It’s not even close to being that simple. The novel starts with a post-breakup, traumatized Fixx who just can’t grasp the idea that he’s no longer numero uno on ex-girlfriend Sara’s speed dial. He heads off on a solo road trip to Las Vegas to clear his head and regain some composure. True, she ditched him in a pitiless and cold-blooded manner, and true, he needed some time to adjust, but calling her for months afterwards in the middle of the night from various pay phones in the L.A. area just to hear her voice, then hanging up on her without saying a word borders on lunacy. It’s all relative though since the real lunacy is Fixx standing in the parking lot at a Howard Johnson’s rest stop, banging his head against the metal frame of the phone booth, trying to still the inner voices begging him to make the call while his conscious mind begs him to stop. The result is a few moments of blackout, a nice lump on his head, and a new friend, Donovan, the security guy who takes pity on him.
The breakup resulted in not only a broken heart but a severe case of writer’s block, a problem if you are writing under deadline. Fixx tries to beg off an assignment — a story about a particularly horrible high-profile couple — but the father who happens to be the Los Angeles District Attorney will not allow it and demands Fixx finish the piece. He does, but tells the truth about them in an uncensored and brutally honest manner. Suddenly the wedding is off, the parties are furious, and Fixx is at risk of getting his faced smashed in at every turn. Surprise — things get worse when he’s asked to write his special brand of love story for a mob boss’s daughter and her fiancé. Fixx takes the job — as if he has a choice — and finds himself growing more and more attracted to the boss’s daughter, the mob boss’s daughter.
I had a bit of trouble initially with the way the book bounces back and forth in time, but the story is compelling, fresh and funny, so any momentary confusion I may have experienced from a non-linear telling was forgotten in all the fun.
The pace is quick, the narration light and airy, the sense of drama never over the top. There’s no sex, no bad words, and no gun violence — people only use their fists in this book — a refreshing throwback to a more manageable time. Crime + romance = irresistible noir = Jon Fixx. I can’t wait to see the movie.