There is dark crime fiction and then there’s Alec Cizak’s Down on the Street (ABC Group Documentation) which drips with poverty and misery. The fortyish taxi driver Lester Banks struggles daily to lease his cab and even eat. His monthly apartment payment can either signal another 30 days with a roof over his head or the beginning of his homelessness. These aren’t the best of times, these are worst of times.
As bad as things are for Banks, there are his dreams of bedding the college student who lives down the hall from him. The Chelsea fantasies of short skirts help Banks pacify his anger which runs deep through him whether he is at work or watching TV. Life is not a quiet desperation for Banks, he knows it is actively trying to screw him over only to lead him to robbery, drug dealing, “or whatever else the doomed were using to ease their jog to the grave.”
A series of circumstances set Banks’ life in a direction he never saw coming. Part of him believes that his life will somehow get better, but like the Bad Luck Brian meme Banks’ life is just a series of screw-ups. Eryk Pruitt called Down on the Street “dirtbag noir” which is spot on. As horrible as Banks becomes and as bad as his decisions are, Cizak ably keeps the reader engaged and, at times, even rooting for the scumbag of a protagonist. The bleakness of Down on the Street gets darker and darker as the reader travels with Banks from poverty to prostitution and from crooked cops to human trafficking — it is the tale of a miserable man desperately trying to survive, not to succeed, just to survive. The catalyst of many modern noir novels is gambling and drugs, but Cizek’s Down on the Street is driven by the grim reality of poverty and hopelessness.