Written by Wayne Epperson — Frank Knott is an Atlanta bounty hunter, employed to find criminals who have jumped bail and failed to turn up for their day in court. Stopping off in Dallas on his way to San Antonio, he becomes involved in an illegal poker game organised by his ex-Marine Corps buddy, Sam Morris. The other players all seem to be important Dallas faces. Frank is holding good cards, but then the evening turns violent, and he’s forced to draw his gun and shoot an armed robber. He makes bailed on a charge of manslaughter and as he cannot leave Dallas to do his job, he’s forced to accept temporary employment from Tom Medina, a powerful local businessman who has mysterious connections with the newly appointed mayor, Jane Goolsby.
Medina is a bail bondsman, and he gives Frank the task of tidying up some messy cases. As Frank looks through the files, he learns that Medina is in debt to the state over unpaid bail, and is in danger of having some of his assets sequestered. Frank is puzzled why Medina has helped him out with the job, and his work is hindered by the coldness and mistrust shown by Medina’s secretary Connie Stone. She is a beautiful but aggressive Native American, but when things start to turn ugly between Frank and Medina, she reveals an astonishing secret which totally changes Frank’s perception of recent events and what kind of a fix he has got himself into.
In a feverish atmosphere of deceit and corruption at the highest levels of business and the justice system, Frank is sucked into a violent world of double dealing, bribery and drug smuggling. Armed only with his own values and a simple moral code enhanced by his time in the marines, he struggles to steer his way through the stormy waters of million dollar scams, crooked judges and bought cops. The only person who Frank can trust seems to be the stoical and stone-faced Texas Ranger, Harris.
Epperson’s writing style is economical and stripped to the bone. He describes Frank Knott’s stay in the Lone Star State with a minimum of fuss, in an almost documentary style. This is a very short novel, not much beyond the length of an extended short story. If there is a plot flaw, it is that everything hinges on Frank being handed an ‘in’ to Medina’s organisation in the first place. It would surely have been a better bet for Medina to have simply seen Frank locked up and out of the way. As resolute and honest as he is, Frank does not seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, and the truth about what’s been happening is revealed to him (and us) by other people, rather than through his own investigations. However, there are enough surprises in the book to push the storyline forward, and this a solid and well-crafted piece of writing.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars