Snitch Jacket (novel), Rookery-Overlook Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Christopher Goffard's first novel, Snitch Jacket, was described by a Publishers Weekly reviewer as a "darkly comic romp through the Southern California underworld. Protagonist Benny Bunt, a middle-aged dishwasher and former methamphetamine addict, escapes the boredom of his existence in Costa Mesa by hanging out at his neighborhood bar, the Greasy Tuesday. There he comes under the spell of charismatic Gus "Mad Dog" Miller, a Vietnam veteran and ex-convict who entertains his new friend with tales of his outrageous exploits. Soon Benny is caught up in a plan to help Gus with a contract killing, but plans go awry, and Benny—who has snitched on his new buddy—is fingered for the crime.
A writer for Kirkus Reviews found the novel "unimaginative" and peopled with predictable characters, but many other reviewers rated the book highly. "Don't come to this expecting a typical whodunit," wrote a contributor to the Things I'd Rather Be Doing Web site. "The book is a rich character study that will leave you laughing, marveling and waiting impatiently for Goffard's next feat of prose." Booklist contributor Thomas Gaughan found Goffard's shifts from black comedy to straight noir rather "jarring," but described Snitch Jacket as a "strange and occasionally heady brew." A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the intelligence, humor, and closely observed detail in the novel, while Guardian contributor Matthew Lewin, noting the novel's rich characterizations, concluded that Goffard "writes like an angel and plots like a demon."
In an interview for the Author Interviews Web log, Goffard commented on the parallel between how some journalists approach the job and the activities of his protagonist, who is a snitch. "I came to think of Benny as a broader metaphor for writers in general," Goffard stated, "that dangerous breed who listen very closely to the people around them, coax out all kinds of heart-meat stuff, and then use the material to hustle out a living." As Goffard explained in an interview for the Things I'd Rather Be Doing Web site, he found his inspiration for Gus while working as a police reporter. He met a career criminal whose "glasses were missing a nose-guard on one side, which made them sag," and he added this element to Gus's character. Goffard also incorporated other individuals in developing Gus. He sketched "a charismatic homeless man under a bridge in Tampa … right down to the way his sweat discolored his baseball cap" and studied the sketch as he wrote the book. For the St. Petersburg Times, Goffard wrote several investigative stories on a Veterans Affairs "shrink who … was inventing these grisly stories about his experiences in Vietnam," a habit that Goddard also added to Gus's characteristics. He created Benny in a similar way, drawing from the array of characters he encountered in his work. Even so, Goffard added, there are pressures in writing fiction because you must invent what ultimately happens—and the choices are infinite.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2007, Thomas Gaughan, review of Snitch Jacket, p. 40.
Guardian (London, England), March 3, 2007, Matthew Lewin, review of Snitch Jacket.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Snitch Jacket.
Los Angeles, October 1, 2007, Robert Ito, review of Snitch Jacket, p. 96.
Publishers Weekly, August 20, 2007, review of Snitch Jacket, p. 46.
Author Interviews,http://writerinterviews.blogspot.com/ (July 10, 2008), author interview.
Nieman Narrative Digest,http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/ (July 10, 2008), author profile.
Things I'd Rather Be Doing,http://www.tirbd.com/ (July 10, 2008), author interview.