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Felonious Monk

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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2022 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="https://rusaupdate.org/2022/01/readers-advisory-announce-2022-reading-list-years-best-in-genre-fiction-for-adult-readers/">
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I reviewed this book for Shelf-Awareness.com (link attached)

Felonious Monk

by William Kotzwinkle


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A monk inherits an uncle's estate and a $2 million debt to an organized crime ring in William Kotzwinkle's darkly funny crime thriller Felonious Monk.

Tommy Martini had a bright future, until he accidentally killed someone with a single punch. Luckily, his uncle with mob connections, Father Vittorio, stepped in to make a deal, whisking Tommy off to a Mexican monastery where the young man could show his contrition. The deal came with court-mandated medication to combat Tommy's anger. For five years, Tommy thrives as a monk, until he's summoned at age 26 to Vittorio's deathbed.

At Vittorio's estate in Paloma, Ariz., Tommy faces both culture shock and the rest of the criminally-minded Martini family. Everyone is shocked when Tommy inherits Vittorio's estate. Most of the family want him dead, but cousin Dominic throws away Tommy's meds and begs him to fight professionally. Tommy is about to give away his inheritance and return to the monastery when two thugs show up to collect $2 million Vittorio owed. No longer on medication, Tommy beats up the thugs and decides to forgo a life of peace until he eliminates his uncle's enemies.

Seasoned novelist William Kotzwinkle (Doctor Rat) tempers the blood-soaked brutality in Felonious Monk with tough-guy witticisms: "Rage is good.... It's part of evolution." "When you put someone in the ground your mood improves." "I don't kill all my men, Martini, just some of them." Kotzwinkle's writing draws readers into the righteous violence rather than push them away. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer

Discover: In this pulpy crime thriller, killer-turned-monk Tommy Martini does a lot of wrong in the name of doing right.
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Did you like to read Mike Hammer books or watch James Bond movies in your youth? If you are male and enjoy man’s man (pre-#metoo) stories, then Felonious Monk is perfect for you. For everyone else, not so much.

Tommy was sent to a monastery to escape murder charges after a barroom brawl. His rich and mob-connected uncle is a former priest himself. However, Tommy returns to freedom, and the Arizona desert, to attend his uncle’s funeral. No one is more surprised than Tommy when he is left his uncle’s house in the will. Tommy settles in among the new age and UFO seeking crazies in the tourist town, while trying to avoid his uncle’s and his own enemies.

So, the last paragraph’s description seems fine, right? That is the book’s blurb on Goodreads too and why I selected this book on Netgalley. So, what am I complaining about? Tommy is understandably lonely for female attention after five years in a monastery. He hones in on Sally, a beautiful assistant to a local con woman. It’s Sally or no one for Tommy, who goes all in. There is one problem. Sally herself tells him she is not interested—more than once. He still pursues her. Tommy is twenty-six yet seemingly has not heard of “no means no” or online dating. I was so distracted by his behavior that I didn’t enjoy the rest of the book. Also, I didn’t see any humor in Felonious Monk either.

Overall, a big miss for me. 2 stars.

Thanks to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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William Kotzwinkle is back! Over 15 years since his last novel and nearly that long for the most part since even his last children's book, the once-prolific author finally has a new book out. As private as he is, I can't find any explanation for his absence. But as a longtime fan, having read almost all of the 25 or so titles he published during the 1970s and 80s, I welcome him back -- with thanks to him and his publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an ARC of Felonious Monk and review it.

Kotzwinkle is best known for his novelization of E.T. at the invitation of and in collaboration with Steven Spielberg. I already knew him well from reading The Fan Man (several times) back in the 70s -- as a denizen of the East Village in those days, though not quite at the level (low as it was) of Horse Badorties, I (along with my friends) freely quoted him for years to come. I even re-read it a couple of years ago and found it as funny as ever.

All that said, I'm not clear why Kotzwinkle chose to make his return with a book like Felonious Monk. After 15 years, something like Gravity's Rainbow or Infinite Jest would have seemed right -- a life work of grand proportions free of commercial considerations. Nevertheless, it is a light, breezy, easy read that is well crafted and certainly entertaining. The best I can come up with is that this is Kotzwinkle's example of a book in the Pulp Fiction genre -- a violent crime novel with a humorous satirical tone.

Tommy Martini is the title character, a gifted fighter of superhuman proportions, born into an organized crime family, found at the start of this story living as a monk in Mexico to atone for accidentally killing a man with his bare hands. When his guardian priest uncle dies, he returns to Arizona and is reluctantly drawn back into a life of crime, albeit with his monkish moral compass directing his anger and aggression toward truly evil people.

Landing in Paloma, a thinly veiled stand-in for Sedona, Tommy has to deal with the Mafia, the Mexican Cartel, the more corrupt precincts of the Catholic Church, and a sexy new age con artist and her body snatching alien entities. Always understated by invariably right on target with cutting wit, especially when eviscerating the new age mumbo jumbo that proliferates in a place like Sedona, Tommy proves to be a different kind of Everyman who manages to find his way through an ever-growing body count.

As a fan (man), I found this to be a fun return to form for an author I've read heavily, really in the wheelhouse of his prior body of work. But I'm left wondering what William Kotzwinkle has been up to over the past decade and a half to not have continued to produce this kind of book all along on a more regular basis, or returned instead with a life work.
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Anyone who has even vaguely followed the four-decade career of William Kotzwinkle (and I’m only a dipper, having read half a dozen novels) appreciates how eclectic his output has been. Uniting all the strands has been a hard-boiled, razor-humor style. "Felonious Monk" is yet another Kotzwinkle innovation, a noir thriller about a monk! When Brother Tommy, at peace in a monastery that blunts his short-fuse temper, is bequeathed assets by a mob-friendly crooked priest, his life is upended, aswirl in a world of vying crooks, cult fanatics, and voluptuous women. As physically strong as he is blunt of temperament, Tommy navigates the open world once more while trying find moral equilibrium on his own terms. The author’s prose is bullet-blunt and his sense of pithy dialogue is undiminished. I must admit I grew weary of a roiling plot with little point beyond putting Tommy through his paces, and Brother Tommy himself remained an enigma to me. That said, Felonious Monk burns with a weird intensity and is a cracking read.
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Tony Martini is the Felonious Monk. He has been in exile at a monastery in Mexico. Tony, a man with wrestling (and other) skills and a very short fuse, accidently killed a young boy. To make things right (disappear) his uncle, a former mobbed up wealthy priest, paid up and made Tony go away for a while. But now, the uncle has died, and Tony returns to the USA for the funeral.  Things do not go well.

This book requires a specific reader to get the most out of it. Picture if a lesser Carl Hiaasen and Tony Soprano birthed a writer on steroids who wanted to skew mobs, Arizona (specifically Sedona, Phoenix), Las Vegas, and the Vatican. Sprinkle in some odd sex moments, weird descriptions, New Age nonsense, some great lines and odd characters. Then this is the book for you, but not me. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this title for review.
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Laugh out loud funny and features a crazy and diverse cast of very entertaining characters. This is but another great book from William Kotzwinkle. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a funny pulpy story that doesn't take itself too seriousy.
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Can I give this more than five stars?  One of the BEST reads in a while, and a hoot of a romp where Tony Soprano meets Pulp Fiction and battles the Vatican and his family and a drug lord among others after leaving the monastery?  Bring it on!  A diverse and out-there cast of characters that kept me reading often laughing, and seriously rooting for Tommy and Dominic.  We need more of this - rooting for a follow on!
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3.5 stars. I wish to thank NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for an early copy of this much-anticipated book in return for an honest review. This was a bizarre story that reminded me of old pulp fiction with more sexual activity and gore. From early reviews, I expected humour but found this only present in the absurdity of the grotesque situations. It was well-written, and I believe the author accomplished his goal, but this book is not for everyone. 

 Tony Martini has just left his 5-year stay in a monastery to attend his uncle's funeral. He is a big, tough man who was studying at college and was due for wrestling at the Olympics. He had no true religious vocation but became a monk in penance for accidentally killing a man in a fight. He is highly skilled in fist fighting, kickboxing, and martial arts. Tony has anger issues setting off blinding rages. He has been calmed by the solitude and routine of the monastery life and heavy doses of medication.

 His uncle was a wealthy, much loved, corrupt priest. He lived in a lavish mansion. Tony's grandfather was the head of a criminal mob who lived in apparent poverty to evade scrutiny by the FBI.

 Attending his uncle's funeral was not a good idea. He finds that he is now the owner of the wealthy priest's luxurious home and property. His inheritance has angered his sisters. He finds himself in danger from Italian mob assassins, ruthless Chinese gangsters, and other assorted criminals. He is pleased to stop taking his medication so that he can release his rage. Bodies pile up and must be hidden from law enforcement. He also discards his vows of celibacy.  The town attracts new-age cults, UFO fanatics, and people believing that alien (demonic) entities invade human bodies, causing character flaws, ill health, and emotional disturbances. Toni is attracted to the wrong type of woman, including an affair with a psychotic, married con-woman and her most ardent follower. There are more dead bodies, gruesome scenes, and corpses to be hidden. In his spare time, he participates in cage fighting, which draws the attention of recruiters for the wrestling circuit.

 What will the outcome be? Will he manage to untangle himself from his lust for inappropriate crazy women? Will he somehow free himself from being the target of gang leaders and their hitmen? Will he become a professional wrestler or live idly on the great wealth he inherited? Will he end up in prison or back at the monastery? There are some interesting decisions that Tony must make. I believe some readers will enjoy this suspenseful book despite its violence and grotesque scenes.
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This story is definitely character driven in their words, thoughts, and actions. With enough twists to keep you guessing, the added benefit of humor is welcomed.
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William Kotzwinkle writes intensely and voraciously; an intriguing and gripping new book from this authors, whose work I have enjoyed for some time now.
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What better way to spend Easter weekend than with a monk in need of anger management?
Felonious Monk was expertly written. The pacing was perfect. The characters were, I don't want to say quirky, but... quirky? Slightly absurd but also believable? And just about everyone was morally ambiguous, at best. The titular monk, we discover at the start, has no real vocation, entering the order as a penance for something he did in a fit of rage. That rage, and his attitude for violence, comes in very handy. His love interest, a con artist with no conscience, was absolutely detestable- she keeps you reading because you need to see if she ever gets what's coming to her.
I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the story. In one way, it was a standard sort of manly thriller with intellectual aspirations. In an other, it was bleak and uncomfortable, almost an exercise in futility, a brief, violent chapter in a man's life that comes to nothing, with no lasting (or even temporary) effects. The monk ends the story in much the same mental and emotional state that he begins it in.
The ending left me cold. There was no feeling of satisfaction upon completion, you know? And because of that I'm not really sure how to rate it. There were aspects that were great, some really fantastic lines and some interesting, thought-provoking concepts, but overall? I don't know.
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This is another sparkling book from William Kotzwinkle. This one concerns Tommy Martini. Tommy has spent five years as a monk in Mexico to atone for killing someone as a result of his poor anger management. The death of his uncle leads him to a small Arizona town filled with new-age practitioners and followers. There he claims his inheritance and deals with assorted characters, cult leaders, Mafia and other organized crime members. The book is razor sharp, funny, fast paced and ultimately very thoughtful. A fast and enjoyable read.
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