September 4, 2011

Strong Woman As Victim

Anthony Gar Haywood, using the pseudonym Ray Shannon, wrote two crime novels on the theme of the strong woman as a victim who fights back.
In the first novel, Maneater, Rhonda (Ronnie) Deal, a junior development executive at Velocity Pictures, is a beautiful woman fighting her way to the top in a business dominated by men. The problems she has in the office with her male rival dwarfs the trouble that finds her when, sitting in a bar drinking a beer and thinking about how to get even with her male rival, she witnesses a big, Black thug snatch a small, young white woman off a bar stool and start beating her. Ronnie gets up and hits the thug over the head with the beer bottle. While he is stunned, she cracks him across the nose with the bottle. When she looks around, she discovers the young woman has fled, and realizes it is time for her to run, too, before he regains his senses.

The man Ronnie knocked temporarily senseless is Neon Polk, a psychopath who hires out as a money collector for drug dealers and other nefarious characters. A pissed off Neon vows that Ronnie is his “blood enemy.” He gets Ronnie’s address, attacks and rapes her in her home, and threatens to repeatedly do it if she doesn’t pay him $50,000 in a week.

Ronnie knows that if she pays Neon, she will become his slave for the rest of her life. If she doesn’t, she is dead. She realizes that she needs help from a man as mean and dangerous as Neon. She finds her knight in shining armor in an ex-con who has submitted a screen play with an urban setting to Velocity Productions. After reading the screen play, she thinks Ellis Langford is the right man to go up against Neon.

Ellis, the protagonist in the subplot, is a parolee recently released from prison and is working as a pizza deliveryman. Aside from the constant aggravation his parole officer causes him by checking up on him, his own trouble begins when he delivers pizza to two Mexican brothers waiting in a motel room to complete a drug deal. The younger brother decides to beat up on Ellis just for fun. A mistake. Ellis tricks them out of the room one at time and puts both in the hospital. They escape the hospital and go looking for him with revenge on their minds.

When she finally meets Ellis, Ronnie sizes him up:

“Ronnie had seen her share of Hollywood poker faces in all their endless variety, but the one Ellis was wearing now was something altogether different. It was as blank and uninformative as a new oil canvas. She had no clue what the man was thinking, or what emotions, if any, she had stirred in him. Compounded by his edgy, catlike beauty, which Ronnie had immediately felt the pull of despite herself, the writer's indecipherability left her with no choice but to maintain a defensive posture toward him.”

Later, after she explains her situation and asks Ellis for his help, he explains to her why she thinks he can help her with Neon: “’The wannabe screenwriter, nigger ex-con you figured oughtta be a cinch to bribe into whacking a stranger for you. Man did it once for nothing, why wouldn't he do it again for a few thousand dollars, right?’”

Will the partnership work? And will they get Neon before the Mexican brothers get Ellis or Neon gets Ronnie?

I enjoyed this relaxing novel because of its fast pace, unrelenting violence, and the tough female protagonist. The villains are true villains with no redeeming characteristics. The two protagonists are flawed but, to use the most favorite word of reviewers, likable characters.

Although I enjoyed the novel, the plot is too pat. It reads as though the novelist was following instructions in a book on how to write a novel.