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Wednesday 24 August 2022

‘Just Thieves’ by Gregory Galloway

Published by Melville House Publishing,
4 November 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-61219-937-5 (HB)

Just Thieves chronicles the lives and philosophies of two young men, the narrator, and his partner, Frank. Recovering addicts, they are also successful house thieves who steal to order for a job-master, Frochmer. Most of the story centres around the time when the narrator, Rick, (his name is rarely mentioned in the book) and Frank, are probably in their late twenties. However, sections about their backgrounds scattered through the text illuminate their attitudes to life and illustrate how they reached their present lifestyle.

The first line in the book contains the information that ‘There Was A Dead Horse In The Street In Front Of The Hotel.’  This circumstance upsets Frank who insists on careful planning and surveillance. He needs to understand what everything means before he does a job. Rick rarely thinks things through properly. He gets impatient and does a job without waiting for Frank. All goes well with the job, but Rick’s departure from their normal modus operandi signals the start of a downward spiral in the thieves’ relationship.

Frank and Rick may have recovered from previous addictions, but despite their determination to give something back to society – Frank teaches and Rick wants to fulfil his obligations to his daughter – it seems they have swapped one addiction for another: the addiction of thieving. The narrator has known Frochmer all his life. He regards him as a father figure and is desperate to please him. Unfortunately, Frochmer has no scruples and uses the thieves mercilessly.  As we witness the young men’s attempts at behaving like normal human beings, we see the weight of their backgrounds stacked against them and their inevitable path to ruin.

This book is an absolute masterpiece of American noir.  It is well written and thought-provoking. The main characters are portrayed so realistically that one cannot help but sympathize with them and the lives they end up living or losing in a town that could be almost anywhere in the USA.

Reviewer: Angela Crowther

Gregory Galloway was born in Burlington, Iowa and grew up in Keokuk. is an American fiction writer. He went to college at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. He has an M.A. from the University of Iowa, and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He moved to New York City and worked a variety of jobs, including one at Putnam Publishing. His first novel, As Simple as Snow, was released by Putnam in 2005. Just Thieves, his third book was published in November 2021.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner. 

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