Fresh Meat: Fear City by F. Paul Wilson

Fear City by F. Paul Wilson is the final book the Repairman Jack: The Early Years trilogy set in New York City in 1993 (available November 11, 2014).

For new fans of F. Paul Wilson’s popular Repairman Jack character, Fear City is the last book in The Early Years Trilogy. For those of us who have followed his exploits from The Tomb all the way through Nightworld, it’s the final puzzle piece we’ve been clamoring for. And for first time readers, it’s great introduction to an intriguing and entertaining series character.

Jack is a young man from New Jersey with a shadowy past, living under the radar and working as a fix-it man in New York City. As one character puts it:

It’s like God created you from nothing and set you down here. If you were older, I’d say you were a field agent for some intelligence agency, but even they create false histories for their people. You don’t have any history, true or false.

Because Jack is not a fix-it man in the usual sense of the word. Jack’s repairs are of a personal nature. He helps out average, run-of-the-mill people who have a wrong that cannot be fixed by mundane or even legal means:

Julio had mentioned drink bringing out the real you. But according to him all it brought out in Jack was “quiet” and a “look,” whatever that meant. As much as he was glad he hadn’t turned into the high-fiving, I-love-you-man dork Julio had joked about, that guy would have been better than the other Jack he knew lurked inside—the dark part of him that wrecked knees and busted skulls and threw people off bridges and drove arrows into brains via eyeballs.

Fear City is set in 1993. It’s a time of transition for New York City. Times Square is positioned to change from the city’s crime-ridden, porno hub into the tourist-friendly plaza it is today. It’s a change that makes the secretive Jack nervous.

If the magazine guy was right about the Amsterdam, then change was sure as hell coming and, as far as Jack was concerned, not for the better. Well, better if you were a landlord, but no way for a small businessman. Things would not, as the saying went, stay the same. All the quirky little stores and all the quirky people who frequented them and all the quirky people who ran them were going to go the way of the Neanderthals.

But it’s also a great way to mark the transition between a young man developing a very particular skillset and the seasoned troubleshooter who shows up next, chronologically, in The Tomb. And the date also allows Wilson to a use very real tragedy to spin an emotional and very fast-paced thriller that foreshadows later events in both the series and the real world.

A chance encounter with an ex-girlfriend leads to the promise of a friendly lunch date. However, when she doesn’t show up, Jack refuses to believe it’s a simple blow-off. His investigation turns up more than he could have imagined as incidents from his past come rushing together, connecting into a bloody pattern full of Mafia goons, vicious killers, intelligence agents, a torturer-for-hire, and a one very secret and very ancient society intent on nudging a group of dangerous extremists into a brutal act of terror.

Fear City is exciting and fast-paced, while still being serious and sometimes very bleak. Wilson expertly juggles multiple characters and plot strands into a satisfying conclusion that leaves his main character forever changed and sets the stage for more. It’s everything I want in a Repairman Jack book and my only quibble is a very slight one. While Wilson does do a good job filling you in on what’s happened in the other two books of The Early Years trilogy without getting too bogged down in…last time with Repairman Jack, and you can, I think probably appreciate it without having read both Cold City and Dark City, this definitely reads like the third book in a very tight trilogy.

Regardless, readers are in for bloody, white-knuckle ride.  So remember,

When all else fails . . .

When nothing else works . . .

REPAIRMAN JACK

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Chad Eagleton is a hardboiled writer and unrepentant leftist currently working on the style of his soul. His work is available in print or eBook and online. Most recently, he edited the anthology Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats. He currently serves as a reader for Needle: A Magazine of Noir and a co-editor at Beat To A Pulp. He’s also an obsessive Shane Stevens' fan, attempting to complete a biographical portrait of this tragically forgotten master.

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