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Sucker Punch

1 rating: 4.0
A book by Ray Banks

Cal Innes is back, in a “ferocious asskicker of a novel” (Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone), visiting the City of Angels for a boxing tournament that turns deadly.   In this, the second Cal Innes novel, Cal is looking … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Fiction, Boxing, Noir Fiction, Boxing Tournaments
Author: Ray Banks
Genre: Noir
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date Published: February 12, 2009
1 review about Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch Hits All The Right Spots

  • Mar 5, 2009
  • by
Ray Banks' second Cal Innes novel, Sucker Punch, is my first. I expect though that it won't be my last.

Sucker Punch takes us along with ex-con, ex-PI, codeine-addicted Callum Innes as he travels from Manchester to Los Angeles as a "babysitter" for Liam Wooley, a young boxer entered into an amateur boxing tournament in California. Innes has no real experience in the world of amateur boxing (outside of his job as a helper in a local gym), and has never been to Los Angeles. Banks uses Cal's natural trepidation about the unknown brilliantly, and slowly cranks up tension as the story moves along without using hackneyed and cliched plot mechanisms. We have the sense something may be about to happen, but at the same time wonder if we, and Cal, are just being paranoid.

Sucker Punch has enough tough-guy (often hilarious) banter, bar fights, and gritty boxing scenes that many reviewers are calling it noir. From the outset though, Banks lets us know that Sucker Punch isn't going to be traditional for the genre; for one thing, there's no underlying mystery propelling the story. Instead, I kept turning pages well past the hour at which I should have been sleeping because I enjoyed spending time with Innes, who just feels more human and accessible to me than most characters in works by masters like Chandler or Ellroy (my personal modern favorite). Though Cal's relationship with Wooley is always strained, in fact throughout most of the book Liam dislikes and disrespects Cal, Innes always puts his responsibility to the young boxer first; we get a good look at just what kind of a guy Cal Innes is, and he's immensely likable. Cal may be a tough guy on the outside, but Banks lets us see the worried, highly flawed, self-critical guy on the inside; a refreshing change from many characters in the genre.

Add to that Banks' unique and quirky style (ever hear a character claim something was making his teeth itch?) and his liberal use of British slang, and you end up with an incredibly enjoyable (and quick) read. From the opening scene in which Cal is having his final meeting with his parole officer, to the (slight) plot twist that occurs about 2/3 of the way through the book, to the final (perfect for the book) sentence, I loved Sucker Punch. Banks has written a book that never feels like it's trying to imitate works by the kings of noir, created one of my favorite characters in years, and done it all in his own unique and funny style. That's something few novels in recent memory can say.

HIGHLY recommended.

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