"Fascinating and hilarious," "relentlessly clever," and "truly haunting" are all phrases that have been used to describe David Schickler's unique talent. And all apply to this brash, brilliant novel featuring two of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction: Grace McGlone and Henry Dante.
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The Dial Press
August 30, 2004
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Excerpt from Sweet and Vicious by David Schickler
WE'RE DRIVING ON THE HIGHWAY IN THE BUICK when a hawk crashes through our windshield.
"Holy hell," says Floyd, and Roger and I say stuff too. The car swerves.
Brap, screeches the hawk. It's dying, then it dies. It's stuck through our windshield, its body on the hood and its head inside, like it's peeking through curtains, checking things out backstage. There are spikes of glass, I spill my Big Gulp, and the hawk has a squirrel in its talons.
"Dammit." Sprite fills the crotch of my jeans. I'm riding shotgun.
"There's a hawk in our windshield," shouts Floyd. He sounds awed or thrilled. He's in the backseat. Wind whistles in around the hawk's body, which is wedged tight. Roger, who's driving, fights with the wheel.
"There's a hawk in our windshield," shouts Floyd, "and there's glass everywhere."
Roger pulls over. We take deep breaths. It's six in the morning, no other cars around. There are ribbons of fog over the highway, points of dew in the roadside grass. Also, hanging dead before us is a red-tailed king of the skies.
"Wow," says Roger. He's got on black leather driving gloves.
"The hawk is holding a rat or something," says Floyd.
It's early May, the new millennium. I'm thirty-two and I bust people's heads for Honey Pobrinkis, a Chicago gangster. Floyd's my partner in the head-busting department. He wears his blond hair in a biker's ponytail, and he's as dumb as tundra, but he's got a photographic memory, which comes in handy. As for Roger, he's forty. He's Honey's nephew, but he's only a mob guy in the summer. From September to April, Roger attends the University of Chicago, where he's getting a master's in anthropology.
"Honey's gonna flip," says Floyd. "His car is fucked."
"Quiet," says Roger, brushing glass off his jacket. He wears a suit and tie wherever we go.
"Honey's ride has been fucked by a hawk and a rat."
"Quiet, Floyd," insists Roger.
I stare at the mangled former hawk. He's beautiful and lordly, but he's been dethroned. Just before the crash, I was actually thinking of animals ' not hawks or squirrels, but sheep. The sheep I was pondering belong to Charles Chalk, whose head we're on our way to busting. Charles is Honey's diamond dealer. He lives west of Chicago, out Route 90, on a farm in Hampshire, Illinois. I visited his farm years back and admired his sheep. There were dozens of them. They were black and white and fenced in and they made noises that meant Save Me.
"Oh, man." Floyd gets out of the car, looks at the windshield. He whistles long and low, shaking his head. "Oh, man. We have witnessed the fucking of a Buick."
Roger finishes picking glass off his torso. He wears a porkpie hat, day and night, and under the hat is a black buzz cut with one weird white streak near the left temple. Roger's smart, built, and mean. I've never crossed him.
"Oh, man," says Floyd, "the hood's dented. If Honey were here, he'd kill that hawk, point-blank."
"The hawk died on impact," says Roger.
Floyd creases his eyes. "It got off easy."