You know how Elmore Leonard takes a petty criminal—say a car thief or armed robber—and portrays him as a full human being? With feelings, doubts, honorable traits, a sense of humor, good friends, scruples sometimes? That’s Citizen Vince. Jess Walter gives us a criminal we can root for in Vince Camden, a little cog in the Mob who maneuvers his way into the Witness Protection Program and winds up making donuts in Spokane Washington.
Despite his ongoing criminal enterprise and despite the past, in the form of a hit man, coming back to bite him, Vince really does yearn for a “normal” life. The story is set in the final days of the Carter—Reagan presidential race in 1980 and Vince becomes obsessed with the idea of his casting his vote as the sine qua non of true citizenship. Jess Walter surrounds his hero with a cast of likable and quirky characters, all occupying the netherworld that’s the stuff of crime novels. Definitely worth a read for those who appreciate a crime novel outside the crime novel mold.