Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Fat Assassins by Marita Fowler, an action-comedy with a touch of romance which I finished reading last week.
Characters: Plus-sized 20-something southern ladies Shasta and Ulyssa walk high, wide and handsome through this comic scenario of mobsters, lawmen and West Virginia rednecks, both male and female, old and young. Shasta narrates the tale with humor and a keen eye, starting with Ulyssa, her best friend since they escaped a “fat camp” together as children.
Here’s a the first glimpse of Ulyssa:
“Happy Birthday Hooker! Ready to get sideways?” Ulyssa asked mischievously, poking her head into the bathroom. She was wearing a sheer black top over a red satin tank top with snug fitting black jeans tucked into a pair of slouchy black boots. Her dark glossy hair was piled high on her head with stray ringlets surrounding her face.
I liked Ulyssa right off, especially once I read this line a few grafs later:
“Let’s go, Shasta! Them beers ain’t gonna drink themselves.”
The gals’ “plus-size” aspect doesn’t actually get much play, not nearly as much as their feisty characters and talent for moving the action along. Here, Shasta, who begins the novel as a Wal-Mart employee, goes after a shoplifter:
It is estimated that the store had lost over $3000 in stolen goods (vitamins, baby formula, diapers, clothing, etc) since Daisy started ‘shopping’ at our store.
Not on my watch. Today that shopping spree ends.
I pivoted from my position at the register and began to sprint towards the door. I felt a battle cry erupt from deep inside me.
“Aaaaaaarrrrrggggggghhhhhh!” I threw my body sideways to block the exit.
Daisy must have been running on pure adrenaline, as she spun the buggy on two wheels side-swiping the alarm indicators on the side of the door while leaping over my outstretched grasp. Stunned inbound shoppers stared as I scrambled to my feet and gave chase. Daisy hopped on the cart, using the momentum to speed through the parking lot and blow through the stop sign.
Shasta and Ulyssa interact with plenty of other characters with names like Tater, Buck, Cornnut and of course, Bubba. Here’s Crazy Ronnie, a little before he goes off the deep end:
Crazy Ronnie was sitting in the garage watching the windshield and sharpening a giant bowie knife.
“Howdy, Ronnie! How’s the deer meat?”
“I got it hanging in the smoke shed… making jerky. It was a twelve point buck, so I stuffed the head and hung it in my house. It really fancies up the place. Kinda like one of them hunter cabins.”
While some of the characters are hillbilly redneck stereotypes, they’re all fun. Marita and her protagonists Shasta and Ulyssa appear to have a genuine fondness for every one.
Setting: Nitro, W. Va. is the backdrop, named for a WWI ammunition plant. Though much of the tale takes place in bars, cars, homes, stores and other “backdrop” locations, Marita treats us to some unique areas of this sometimes quirky part of the country, including the annual Roadkill Cook-off and Festival.
“Howdy, there!” A twangy accent greeted us from under a straw hat.
“Morning!” We responded inhaling the thick scent of spices and unidentifiable meat.
She chuckled at our flaring nostrils. “It ain’t ready yet. Should be fit to eat after the parade.”
“Um. What is it?” Mitsy asked. She pointed at the chalkboard propped against a reclining, fuzzy black bear.
BEAR BUTT APPETIZERS
Plot: Unjustly fired from their jobs on the same day, Shasta and Ulyssa find employment as exterminators. They discover too late that the pest they’re expected to get rid of is of the human variety, and a dangerous, unpleasant specimen as well.
What I thought could be done better: Fat Assassins could use a good proofreading. It contains its share of misspellings, wrong words and grammar problems:
“I don’t event believe in the occult, what’s wrong with me?” Of course, the word should be “even,” rather than “event.” Two independent clauses joined by a comma, rather than a comma and a conjunction, such as “and,”; or a semicolon, is a run-on sentence.
Every book will have a few of these — and Fat Assassins‘ narrative is strong enough to overcome these small flaws, but it’s an easy improvement for an e-book.
I had to stretch just a bit to accept the central premise of the book — that Shasta and Ulyssa get hired as hit-women under mistaken assumptions by themselves and the mobster who hires them.
I think more physical character description could help Fat Assassins as well. There are an awful lot of colorful characters in this book. I’d like to see the characters as the author envisages them, or at least get a few hints to help me see them.
Is Shasta’s shoulder-length hair platinum blonde, or is it the color of wheat? Do people tell her that her strong chin, aquiline nose, high cheek bones and green eyes make her look Irish? These sorts of details would make Fat Assassins‘ characters even more vivid than they already are, or at least help readers to see them more clearly.
There is some description. Here, Shasta fantasizes about Deputy Hodde:
His tall, muscled body moving with the precision of a Spartan warrior as sweat curled the edges of his brown hair against his Greco-Roman face. His eyes met mine. They were the color of ripened, Italian olives.
I love olives.
What I thought was good: Marita’s writing is strong and verbal, filled with good sensory cues that help you see, hear, even smell the scenes.
We were both chugging blended mochas as the morning sun blasted through the gauzy living room curtains.
“So, who do we know that could get us a gun? It’ll have to be untraceable, like the car,” I said, squinting at Ulyssa. My eyes were hurting from the sunlight and it felt like I hadn’t slept in months.
“I don’t know,” she replied slurping her mocha.
Though I’ve mentioned that the story could use more physical character description, where Marita does include description, it’s terrific. Here, the gals talk with Tamera, a video store clerk, while renting action movies so they can get ideas for their assassination assignment.
Tamera was checking herself out in a compact mirror and teasing her dyed red hair. Her bangs were tightly rolled into a single downward facing curl that reminded me of Whitesnake’s lead singer during the early 80’s. Her makeup was a weird orange shade that looked like it was part of the Oompa Loompa color palate. She was wearing a tight fitting tank top that showed at least four tattoos. I could make out the rose and butterfly on her chest, but I wasn’t sure about the other ones. Here we stood looking like a couple of cream puffs bundled in plus size fuzzy sweaters with no skin art. While Tamera looked like the type of tough girl you’d expect to be an assassin.
Fat Assassins has plenty of action, cars and guns, and lots of things blowing up. Alas, the explosions are usually unintended, as in this scene at the black market gun dealer’s bunker, where Shasta, inexperienced with firearms, pretends for a moment to be Al Pacino’s Tony Montana from “Scarface.” I loved that pic.
I immediately recognized the gun laying on the glass top. I grabbed it and spun around imitating Tony Montana.
“Say hello to my little friend!” I yelled, in my best Cuban accent.
My right arm cramped under the weight of the gun, curling my finger around the trigger.
Fire exploded from the end of the gun as I spun in a circle, propelled by the force of the recoil. The noise was deafening as the bullets bounced around the walls like a real life pinball game. A bullet clipped my shoulder making me fire a final round before dropping the gun and filling the room with silence. Ulyssa threw both hands straight in the air dropping something from her left hand.
Tink. Tink. Tink. A grenade hit the ground at Ulyssa’s feet and bounced across the floor.
And that’s just our gals shopping.
I haven’t mentioned much about the romance, but that’s in there, too. It’s done with the same manic humor as the rest of the book.
Overall: Despite a few minor flaws, mostly in the typo department, Fat Assassins is pure fun country dee-light, e-cover to e-cover. Marita pokes kindly affectionate fun at country culture from the point of view of two heroines capable of broad (no pun intended) humor.
Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, and Thelma and Louise will all recognize Shasta and Ulyssa as kindred spirits.
Good job Marita!