Book Review: ‘Cold City: The Early Years’

A Tor Book, published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N Y 10010

If you’ve never read a Repairman Jack novel, “Cold City: The Early Years” is the perfect place to start. Jack Moore, which isn’t his real name, dropped out of Rutgers and moved to New York City and has, for a number of reasons, decided to work off the grid.

That means no Social Security number, no record of who he is, just a guy who doesn’t want to take part as a registered member of our civilization. In the beginning Jack works off the books as a landscaper for a company called Two Paisanos Landscaping, even though there’s only one Paisano.

The crew is five men—four Dominicans and Jack, the white boy. During the growing season, they work seven days a week and get paid four dollars an hour off the books. It’s 1990, so that type of pay without any deductions doesn’t get you rich, but you’re not poor either.

One of the Dominicans is named Rico, and he was the lead man until Jack started working. Because Jack came from New Jersey and worked as a landscaper for four years, he had more experience than any of the other guys.

Why has Jack decided to drop out? The first three books of his life, covering the period from his teenage years up until he’s 24, tell his story. When he was 19 years old, some young prankster threw a cinder block off a bridge that ran over a throughway, and it went smashing into the windshield of his parents’ car, and his mother was killed.

In the very first book written about Repairman Jack, called “The Tomb,” Jack hides on the overpass two or three nights a week until he catches the young punk who killed his mother. Revenge is not always a dish served cold.

One day Rico was in a particularly bad mood and starting ragging on Jack with various despicable slurs, and Jack was struggling to keep his temper. Then Rico did the unforgivable. He started saying negative things about Jack’s mother. Jack did everything he could to hold himself together, and, by some miracle, he did.

Then, out of nowhere, Rico sucker punched Jack. Jack saw black and used all his martial arts skills on Rico. He broke Rico’s nose and kicked Rico’s knee so that it bent backward. He got him on the ground and started pounding his face. Then Jack picked up a rock and was getting ready to smash it into Rico’s face when Giovanni, the owner of Two Paisanos, wrapped his arms around Jack and lifted him into the air.

Giovanni held Jack up in the air, and all of a sudden, Jack cooled off. He told Jack to go home because the other three Dominicans were really angry, and Giovanni said that when they went back to work, one of them would have used the sharp gardener’s tools to kill Jack.

That was the end of Jack’s work as a landscaper in New York City. It wasn’t his last run in with the Dominicans that he worked with, but you’ll have to read the first three books covering “The Early Years”— “Cold City,” “Dark City” and “Fear City”—to find out what happens next and why it happens.

Giovanni recommended that Jack get a gun just to stay safe, and that’s when Jack finds out that Abe, his close friend in New York who owns a sporting goods store, is also a weapons supplier. In the back room of the sporting goods shop is a giant room with a big sign on the wall that says, “The Weapon Shop of Isher.” Have you ever heard of the science fiction writer named A. E. Van Vogt?

The next job Jack procures is through his weapons trainer, a man named Dane Bertel, who smuggles truckloads of cigarettes from North Carolina to New York City and is always in the market for a trustworthy driver. At $3,000 a trip, Jack gets a substantial raise.

On one of these runs, a major incident takes place that changes the course of Jack’s life. I don’t want to ruin the series, so I can’t say anymore about what happens.

I can say that if you have heard of the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child, and if you like it, you will love the series about Repairman Jack written by F. Paul Wilson, which is about 20 books long. People clamor for Dr. Wilson to write more Jack stories, but, at this time, he’s taken a break and is writing other things. If they ever made Repairman Jack movies and did them well, they’d be giant moneymakers.

I highly recommend this series of books and I would say you should start with “Cold City.” There are others who would disagree with me, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it. The great thing about this series is that, at this time, you can find these books in used book stores and on the Internet for reasonable prices unless they happen to be signed by F. Paul Wilson, the writer.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper’s poetry editor.

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