Writing about hired muscle is difficult without devolving into clichés or creating rather large, thick clunky cardboard cutouts that have no meaning. Enforcers do not have a bad rap, it’s a limited rap: dull-witted, strong, slow, and not so much brave, just stalwart.
Daniel Vlasaty gets the tough guy right in his latest book, A New and Different Kind of Pain (All Due Respect Books). Vlasaty introduces us to David, the pseudo-adopted son of Anthony ‘Ant’ Benedetti, a north side Chicago gangster, and now his hired hand. We get glimpses of Vlastay’s crime soldier as a child surviving an abusive father, building a relationship with the Benedetti family, and becoming a husband and father as well. As A New and Different Kind of Pain progresses, this background becomes the novel’s drive, rather than David’s criminal activities — don’t worry, they do have something to say about what’s going on.
When we first meet David, he is in Cicero, Illinois which smells “of wet ass and death and sewage hanging heavy in the air”. On the job for Ant, David is sent to deal with a chronic wife beater and given David’s past this visit will not go well for the abuser. Ant’s instructions are clear, don’t kill him, “not unless you absolutely have to. Just fuck the motherfucker up.” With this job completed, David’s services are immediately needed by Ant again, so he heads to Wrigleyville hoping to this job done before the night is over.
The dude’s pretty big. But he has the body of a person who spends a handful of hours a week at the gym. Not the body of a guy who gets in fights for a living.
And I’m too tired and stressed out to deal with his fucking bullshit.
I just want to go home.
I just want to be anywhere other than a fucking hipster bar in a yuppie neighborhood at two in the fucking morning.
I just want this motherfucker to give me what I came here to get so I can get the fuck out of his place.
He gives me a little smile. I’m just waiting for him to reach out and twirl his mustache like the fucking douche I know he is.
Like Vlasaty’s Only Bones (review), we are thrust into the fringes of Chicago, a place where most fear to tread. Even though Vlasaty’s staccato-like style of Only Bones is gone in A New and Different Kind of Pain, the writing is still direct and urgent. Vlasaty engages us by pressing David forward through the streets of Chicago in a compact, one-sitting book. It isn’t till the reader puts down the book that we get to catch our breath and say, “Well, fuck.”