by Alexander Yates

Doubleday, $25.95, 360 pages

Alexander Yates’ debut novel Moondogs is scorching fast, and clever.  It tears around at 80 miles an hour, waiting just long enough to find out if you have what it takes to keep up, then leans on the accelerator.  The dialog is whiplash sharp.  If somebody held a gun to my head, I’d say that Yates is channeling Elmore Leonard, I mean that in the best possible sense. There’s no self restraint here, just a young novelist who can’t wait to show you around the seedier side of Manilla.

The story features Benicio, a young IT professional, who when trying to reconnect with his estranged father, flies straight into a pinball machine underworld filled with scheming hookers, slippery politicians, and magically powered warriors. Dad’s been kidnapped by a meth-head cab driver named Ignacio, his gigantic, dimwitted brother, and Kelog, their evil tough-as-nails cockfighting rooster.  I won’t bother trying to explain the plot, it’s indescribable.  It’s a well-written, cocksure thriller, that remembers to bring the funny.  In 20 years you’ll look back and remember the first time you picked up a Yates novel.  I guarantee that it won’t be your last.

Reviewed by Brad Wright