Toward the end of Tom Pitts’s “101” (Down & Out Books), one of the characters admits to themself that being a pot dealer is not worth it, “Let the fucking government experience the headaches of being a dealer.” Set six months prior to California voters legalize pot, Pitts crafts a stellar thriller amidst pot growers, a motorcycle gang, the Russian mob, and two punk-ass kids.
Pitts’s novel is named after the US highway that stretches from Olympia, Washington to Los Angeles, California, but Pitss is interested is the stretch of highway from Humboldt County to San Francisco. “101” isn’t meant to provide fuel for some deep thinking on the legalizing of drugs, no, this is a wham-bam action thriller where scene after scene pushes us to the brink of mayhem or envelopes us into hot bloody chaos.
Chock full of characters, I easily counted 20 characters with significant parts, though I there are probably another 20 more. Through this potpourri, there are a handful of plots strung and paced expertly together. Pitts moves the reader from criminals on the run to the police on the case to Russians on the hunt to . . . well you get the idea, we are all over the place. Pitts cuts from scene to scene and builds up a relentless pace like a well-executed action film.
As I was reading “101”, I kept on expecting one character to take the lead. Maybe one could argue that Vic, the pot-growing farmer in Humboldt County, could be considered the protagonist, but I wasn’t feeling it. As I kept on turning the pages, I realized that Pitts was creating na ensemble cast that worked well with the multiple subplots strung out throughout, so there wasn’t the need for one protagonist to stand out.
Tom Pitts’s “101” is pulp in the best sense, lots action and not lots of fluff. Set against the changing backdrop of marijuana going from illegal to legal, “101” is a witty and thrilling read that you’ll find sativaing.