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This Is What We Do (Paperback)
Tom Hansen’s This is What We Do is a fine and timely book. The publisher promotes it as ‘retro noir’ but I think it’d be more accurate to call it ‘recession noir’ or ‘noir for the 99%’.
Netherly is a guy on the skids. He’s hanging out in Paris going nowhere fast. He’s fled America, the lies and greed of the last few years having deflated his soul. By chance, one night in a club, he meets Lily, a beautiful Ukranian blackballed by the fashion industry because she wouldn’t put up with its lies and greed and who is now reduced to dancing and hooking. She’s made so many compromises in her modeling career, giving so many people control over her body and life, that selling it for sex isn’t dropping lower by much. But her soul is likewise in danger.
They strike up an odd friendship and one sudden violent event bonds them together forever. They flee Paris and end up on the southern coast trying to figure out what to do next. Netherly feels himself come alive again, for the first time in years. He can’t quite believe that he’s been capable of the mayhem he’s committed but he’s also fascinated by how confident he feels in his actions.
At the same time, the world at large is beginning to disintegrate into violence. Isolated citizens are beginning to strike back at the 1% - bankers and government officials – who allowed, if not abetted, in the global recession. The media at first labels this phenomenon “The People’s Mafia” as at the scene of each act is left the message ‘This is What We Do’. Those in power cannot conceive that this isn’t directed, that so many individuals could be so fed up with the powerful that they’d resort to shooting, bombings and other acts labeled as terrorist.
Netherly’s crimes begin to be scene as part of this, even though what he’s done is mostly just protect Lily. Still, he becomes seen by those fighting back against the mindless greed, narcism, and destruction as a hero, to his own amusement. He just wants to get Lily away from the danger and lunacy.
But in true noir style, one’s actions lead to one’s downfall and Netherly understands this and, strangely, is ready – even though his relationship with Lily has evolved into a bright-hot love affair. There’s a vein of romance that runs through the center of the book, not only the romance of a man and a woman, but a romance of wanting the world to make sense, to work as it used to. This a sexy, violent and clear-headed crime novel, a novel of its time, of our time.
Romance and noir for the ninety-nine.— JB
James Nethery is in a crisis. It’s not the first time the facade of his comfortable life has crumbled, but this time it's for good. On a whim he bolts to Paris. Alone, he wanders the streets until he meets Lily, a blacklisted Ukrainian model who is coming to her own painful realizations. A moment of unexpected violence changes everything, unleashing a chain of events that involves them in drugs and an emerging global revolution. Together they must decide between justice and vengeance, and, when forced to take action, between what is too much and not enough.
"A tight retro noir that's as equally comfortable channeling The Stranger as it is George V. Higgins. But there's also a sly anarchic subtext rumbling below the drugs-and-molls narrative, a welling need to bring plutocrat America to its knees. Where, of course, it belongs. This is What We Do is a love story. Or, to be more accurate, it's a story that's in love with its own existential indifference. But it's also Atlas Shrugged jammed in reverse and with the tires smoked. It's Ayn Rand for people with a brain. And a gun. It's a kick. Read it."
—Sean Beaudoin, author of You Killed Wesley Payne and The Infects
"Hansen's debut novel covers even wilder, trickier ground than his memoir, American Junkie. Anti-hero James Nethery seems an ordinary, lonely man drinking Coke at the bar, until he meets "Lily," a Ukrainian prostitute, and what began as a quiet, atmospheric meditation on down-and-out expats in Paris explodes into a nonstop, genre-blending noir-crime-vigilante-political-sexy-nihilistic-almost surreal thrill ride, infused in equal measures with brutality and beauty."
—Gina Frangello, author of My Sister’s Continent, Slut Lullabies, and A Life in Men
"There’s what people say, and then there’s what they do. The phrase will infect your consciousness, contorting and twisting itself around to take on more and more dimensions. What does it mean to act on our desires when one person’s wish fulfillment means another’s nightmare? What does it mean to be free, or to escape? At its core, This is What We Do gives us two people left with nothing, cutting close to the uncoolness of loving without fear." —Grace Krilanovich, author of The Orange Eats Creeps
Praise for Tom Hansen's American Junkie:
"American Junkie takes you to the gristle-chewing tracks of the gnarly Emerald City before the first wave of Sub Pop-loving kids arrived, back when our dreams here had more to do with New York City and Los Angeles than being known locally. It’s the period of post-punk fear and desperation that drives Hansen through most of the book that rings true for anyone who lived in the wastelands where the city’s clubs would spring up."
—Chris Estey, KEXP Radio, Seattle