With his previous novel “This Wicked World,” and especially his glorious short story collection “Dead Boys,” Los Angeles writer Richard Lange had set the bar high.
But his new novel, “Angel Baby,” is further evidence that Lange is a writer firing on all cylinders who belongs in the top tier of novelists working today.
Where does Lange fit in — how to classify his urban tales of broken dreams and violent ends?
“Angel Baby,” like his other novel, fits nicely into the crime genre, but Lange isn't writing mysteries, true crime or police procedurals.
His stuff is more like the 1970s novels of Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins. There's no doubt about who has been wronged and what the consequences are. It's only a matter of who makes it out alive.
Lange calls what he's doing “grime” fiction. His Los Angeles and Hollywood aren't populated with the beautiful people. He's writing about the outcasts and fringe dwellers, and doing so with grace and beauty.
“Angel Baby” opens strong with beautiful former drug addict Luz finally making her move to escape her abusive husband, cartel heavy “El Principe,” and to find the young daughter she left behind. Luz has been planning her escape for years and is willing to do whatever it takes.
What ensues is one long chase as Luz tries to stay a step ahead of her husband and his hired hand, fearsome gangster “El Apache,” who Luz's husband has broken out of a Tijuana prison to find her. El Apache has motivation: If he fails, his family dies.
This thriller keeps the tension building from the opening scene through the heart-wrenching conclusion as Luz tries to find her daughter and hold onto the money she's taken from her husband's safe to secure their new future together.
What makes “Angel Baby” stand out is the emotional involvement he draws from the reader for each of his characters, even the ones we know we shouldn't care about.
This is a novel full of thrills, grit and often sadness — a novel that should be at the top of any thriller or crime fan's reading list this summer. Lange's the real deal, whatever label you choose for him.