New Yorked by Rob Hart (Polis Books, June 9, 2015) – A desperate voicemail, a fuzzy memory, and a fresh body—this is how Ash McKenna’s morning starts. Blackout drunk the night before, he struggles to understand what happened to the love of his life, Chell, before she was brutally murdered, left in a junkyard like common New York trash.
Ash will charge headlong throughout New York City proper to uncover the identity of her killer. He’ll tear through the drag queens, the hipster gentrifiers, and the run of the mill low-life scum of the city. Nothing will stop him from avenging Chell, even if New York itself seems dead set to keep him from his goals.
New Yorked, Rob Hart’s debut novel, the first in his Ash McKenna series, is a kinetic and stubbornly dirty story of love, betrayal, and loss.
I’m no stranger to Rob’s writing, so nothing about the crisp structure, fantastic back and forth dialogue, and literary moments were surprising. The strength In New Yorked lies in its excellent character building. Hart manages to pull together an impressive cast and makes each breathe in their own rhythm. Nothing feels repeated or ham-fisted. From the drag-queen crime boss Ginny Tonic to the recent transplant Margot—this is New York, a stew of everything and everyone.
What Hart accomplishes, a mad scientist splicing DNA from Jim Jarmusch, Woody Allen, Walter Hill, and Bryan Lee O’Malley and jamming it into a book is impressive enough. That he manages to breathe life into New York City and most of the surrounding boroughs (way to leave out The Bronx – I kid…maybe) is a truly impressive accomplishment.
The City isn’t just a backdrop; it serves as the alternate love interest in tandem to the story’s murder victim, Chell. Ash McKenna’s New York City deals with as much brutality as his leads. Every character is “New Yorked” – the term Hart uses to describe what happens to snow in the city.
As for Ash McKenna, he’s an immediately likeable, if caustic, presence. He’s protective, powerful, and good-hearted. His weaknesses aren’t shallow. He’s got a hair-trigger temper and a substance abuse issue he’s not quite ready to face head on. McKenna is a fluffy pit-bull, as likely to bite your throat off as he is to sidling next to you for no other reason than to be next to you. Our protagonist is tossed headlong into a loss that transcends mourning. There’s never a moment where you find yourself arguing against Ash’s violence so much as you can understand why, and concede that you probably wouldn’t be stronger. His story is potent, and I look forward to seeing what other misadventures he comes into.
“We’re the only animals that need to share pain.” It’s a recurrent theme throughout Rob Hart’s New Yorked. It’s buried deep, this trait that every character shares. Even the city seems to have this need.
And what better way than to provide the reader with a true vision of New York; an organism that’s host to millions? Alive and sparkling, alluring and incredibly unkind.
Hart’s publisher, Polis Books, has also announced that the second Ash McKenna novel, City of Rose, will be coming later this year. Very exciting to see we can catch up with McKenna in short time. Based on New Yorked, I have little room to doubt that readers will be in for a treat.
ARC of New Yorked provided by the publisher.