By Gregory Mcdonald
Published by: Hard Case Crime
“Thadeus Lowry, our driver is beating up Santa Claus! Do something!”
“You must be drunk,” said Thadeus Lowry. “Otherwise you wouldn’t want to get into it.”
Hard Case Crime presents one hell of a double feature in Snatch. A collection of two novels from the acclaimed crime-comedy author Gregory Mcdonald, creator of the long-running Fletch series.
Originally published respectively as Snatched in 1980 and Safekeeping in 1985, this collection finds the tonally similar and similarly hilarious novels published together for the first time. Complete with a brand new, original cover painting by artist Patrick Faricy. Both novels are great in their own way, and the whole aesthetic of the paperback is a marvel. It’s a sturdy but easy-to-carry volume that totally nails the old-school vibe of Ace Books spinner rack 2-in-1 collections. It’s yet another tactile testament to how seriously Hard Case Crime takes its output as a publisher.
Further, the actual prose packed within said volume is just dynamite. Honed with Mcdonald’s trademark wit and wordplay, Snatch stands as a madcap, hard-to-put-down experience. One that brings new energy (and hilarity) to what fans and readers might expect from Hard Case Crime.
First, we have 1980’s Snatched (aka “The First Snatch”). It’s the peak of the Oil Crisis of the 1970s, and all 8-year-old Toby Rinaldi, son of U.N. Ambassador Teodoro Rinaldi, wants is to go to Fantazyland, a sneeringly funny mock-up of Disney theme parks. He isn’t going to let a little thing like being kidnapped by the cartoonish henchmen to an equally cartoonish bent “fixer” for the Ambassador stop him.
Thus begins a truly funny, immensely charming, and well-plotted comedy of errors. Bouncing from slightly Lynchian hotels, cramped tennis camps, and then into the very belly of Californian theme parks, Toby leads his captor (and hapless “rescuers”) into the mouth of madness. All toward the goal of meeting his favorite cartoon companions and getting some fair-ground snacks.
Next up, we have Safekeeping (aka “The Second Snatch”) from 1985. Admittedly, this novel has the same basic premise. Luckily, it differentiates itself immediately thanks to Mcdonald’s shifting tone and layout of this “follow-up.”
World War II has just broken wide, and The London Blitz has recently orphaned young Robert James Saint James Burnes Walter Farhall-Paldroman, S.Nob. (Yes, that’s a real name.) Now without his Duke father and Duchess mother, Robby is shipped to America and into the care of his roustabout “godfather,” New York newspaperman Thadeus Lowry. Lowry promptly sends him into the wilds of 40s NYC, only for him to be “accidentally” kidnapped by the unscrupulously strange Savallo family.
While broader than the first novel, this second effort continually brings laughs. As well as genuinely engaging characters throughout. Across both novels, readers are provided a keen sense of Mcdonald’s plotting and characterization. The novels take what could have been very droll set-ups and blossom them into richly presented, consistently funny reads that demand rereads. If only just to go back and pick up jokes or turns of phrases that you might have missed the first time.
So often, “crime-comedy” in prose form falls flat. They are usually either by a failure of character or a lazily laid out plot that generally go nowhere. Fortunately, Snatch avoids all those pitfalls admirably. Anchored around two genuinely precious and highly relatable kid protagonists and populated with strikingly funny settings and side-character antagonists, this 2-in-1 collection is an immensely fun read from start to finish.