Friday, November 14, 2008

Forgotten Books: JITTER JOINT -- Howard Swindle

Howard Swindle was a reporter who was nominated for an Edgar for true crime before he turned to fiction. Jitter Joint was his first novel, and it's a good one. Jeb Quinlin is a Dallas homicide cop. He's also an alcoholic, and at the beginning of the novel he's committed to a rehab hospital, the jitter joint of the title. Turns out there's a serial killer in the joint, which sort of complicates life. Quinlin has to get his own life in order and find the killer, no easy task.

One of the fascinating things about the book is the treatment that Quinlin undergoes. There are plenty of books about cops or private-eyes who are recovering alcoholics, but I can't think of another one that goes into such detail about the rehab process. It's hard not to be reminded of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest while reading this book, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Swindle knew what he was talking about. Like Quinlin, he survived an abusive alcoholic father only to fall into alcoholism himself. I met Swindle only once, at a ClueFest in Dallas, shortly before he was diagnosed with the cancer that killed him all too soon. He published one other novel, a good one called Doin' Dirty. There's more about Swindle and his work here. It's well worth a read.

Jitter Joint was made into a movie with a great cast, including Sylvester Stallone. Unfortunately, it was one of those cases where if you didn't know the movie was supposed to be derived from the novel, you'd never guess it by seeing the movie. It's not set in Dallas but in some deserted area of Wyoming with lots of snow and ice. It was never released to theaters in the U. S. It's on DVD, maybe as D-Tox, maybe as Eye See You. Okay, I checked Netflix. Either title will bring up the movie.


Anonymous said...

Amen to that, Bill. I think you were probably the one who recommended Swindle to me in the first place and I liked it a lot.

And I always thought Swindle was a great name for a mystery writer!


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy and am fascinated by Lawrence Block's descriptions of Matt Scudder's A.A. meetings and rehab. All I know about A.A. I have mostly learned from Block's novels.

Juri said...

D-Tox was brought to theaters in Finland and probably other European countries, too. I didn't see it and it got bad reviews and based on what I read I sure wouldn't've thought it's based on a good novel!

Barrie said...

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the review.