Thursday, February 19, 2009

BIG NUMBERS, Complete Reviews

Below are ten reviews of Big Numbers and a Q&A.

Connie Anderson, Armchair Interviews:
Author Jack Getze had his first newspaper byline at age 19, wrote economic and financial news for both LA Times and LA Herald Examiner, and later sold stocks and bonds.

So this first-time author wrote about what he knew: the people in the financial services industry and their clients.

What if everyone had the kind of clients down-and-out Austin Carr did?

The story starts with a bang--or more accurately, a splash--and then takes us back to how Carr got himself in this watery "predicament."

Buy the Kindle Version
Is it because he doesn't always think--or that he thinks with another part of his body?

Is it because of lack of regular child support payments (his wife kicked his wandering lustful butt out) and he needs money bad so he can pay her, and see his kids--without the fear of being arrested?

Is it because his biggest (all 300 plus pounds) client is REALLY upset about the financial bath Carr's advice has caused?

Or could it be because his most successful client is terminally ill, and Carr is dying to get to know his widow better--sooner rather than later?

Big Numbers has wonderful characters, some you'll hate, other you'll admire. His boss loves to play golf and likes Carr because he is a lucky at golf. Luis is his best buddy and one who feeds him food and drink at his Mexican restaurant. The sales manager from hell (owner's future son-in-laws) despises Carr and thwarts him at every turn. Payback is...

Living in the luxury of an aging camper truck, Carr can move his "address" as is demanded by what level of protection he needs at the moment--and depending on who is after him.

The author knows about stocks and bonds, fishing, food, wackos and women. With that combination, what can go wrong? A lot for bumbling Carr--but great for us.

Big Numbers is well-written, entertaining and wonderfully exhausting--I tried to follow the trail to the who and why, taking many wrong turns.

Armchair Interview says: Austin Carr was in trouble by choice or chance almost the entire book, making it a good read.

By Jack Quick, for BOOKBITCH
This is one tough book. It arrived at my home in a package that looked like it had been used as a training aid for the USPS heavy equipment operators training school. Inside the somewhat battered covers was a dark but funny story about the near demise of a down on his luck stockbroker. Normally, one would not think of a stockbroker as a particularly sympathetic protagonist but when he is living in a truck bed camper in a public parking lot trying to avoid clients like Psycho Samson, a former professional wrestler whose first career choice of the NFL was denied him because of his “bad attitude”….. Austin Carr sums it all up “I swear the only subjects of interest around here are money, sex, and sports, in that order. Hopefully there will be a sequel to Big Numbers so we can get Carr’s take on sports. Recommended. 03/07

By Anne K. Edwards, for MYSTERY FICTION.NET
Have you ever considered what goes on in a brokerage? How deals are made, perhaps, or losses handled and reported? How does a broker know which stock to tell his clients to purchase or sell? Why? The commission alone?

This is the world of Austin Carr. His income is already down and his marriage is over. So then some of his clients take huge losses and he must tell them. Their reactions are predictable, with exceptions, of course.

From here, his life takes another downturn like the market. He is stalked by one disaffected client who wants his money back.

Another instance is the redhead who asks his help in hiding funds. His superior at work gives him trouble. Austin winds up in the hospital more than once. Will it ever end?

This is a story with a lot of action, changes of scene and a series of characters you will love to hate or enjoy meeting. Talented author Jack Getze opens a door that lets us see the inner workings of a stockbrokerage and the pressure to sell, sell, sell. It's enough to drive a man to do things he shouldn't.

 A fun read for the suspense fan. Happy reading. 03/28/07

BLUESTALKING READER, Weblog of Lisa Guidarini
I recently read a book of Hemingway's collected thoughts on writing (titled Ernest Hemingway on Writing, weirdly enough). Hemingway was a superstitious man, especially when it came to  the subject of writing. He didn't like talking about it. He was afraid he'd jinx himself and bring his career to an abrupt halt. Somehow, through the years he managed to say an awful lot on the topic of his craft.

In order to put together this book after the writer's death his very good friend, and frequent correspondent, Charles Scribner combed through Hemingway's collected writings and correspondence. The result is a revealing portrait of an American literary icon. Whether or not you really get along that well with Hemingway, what he has to say about writing is fascinating. Even if you don't agree with it all, it's all pretty thought-provoking. You can't really argue with the man's status, even if you aren't a fan of his books.

When asked what he thought about newspaper reporters going on to become novelists, Hemingway basically replied it's a good way to teach young writers to get to the point quickly. If the man gets out soon enough, he went on to say, it can be a very, very good thing. If he stays too long he'll find fleshing out his writing, adding the kind of detail that makes prose fiction really sing, becomes increasingly difficult, since to a reporter this extra verbage is just extraneous detail that clogs up a good news story.

Jack Getze started his career as a newspaper reporter. As a result, Big Numbers is lean and mean, with not a word wasted. The style is crisp and direct, perhaps tending to lack a bit on detail, but not so seriously you'd really find it lacking. I noted it mostly because I'd just happened to read Hemingway's thoughts on the matter, right before reading Getze's book, so I was really looking for it. However, for a hard-boiled detective sort of mystery, you can't really choose a better prose style than something that's stripped down and matter-of-fact. Jack Getze must have gotten out just soon enough.

The main character of Big Numbers is a man named Austin Carr, a half-full of himself, half-endearingly vulnerable stock and bond investor. He's divorced, and due to the big bubble-burst of the 90s, only just scraping by. He's forced to live in a truck-mounted camper on the Jersey shore, barely eking out a living on what he's able to squeeze out of the investment industry. To top it all off, his ex-wife is holding a bill for back alimony and child support over his head, and virtually holding his children randsom until he coughs up the cash.

Things are not really going that well for Austin Carr.

Enter one of his best clients, the multi-millionaire Gerry Burns. He tells Austin he's dying of cancer. Gerry's girlfriend, the knockout redhead Kelly, turns to Austin with big, tear-filled emerald eyes. And then things get really complicated.
A series of strange "accidents" send Austin to the emergency room, as it becomes increasingly clear someone's out to get him. But who, and why?

Sorry, I'm not telling. But what I will tell you is this book's a truly fun, genuinely funny read. I'm not generally a reader of the hard-boiled thriller genre, and I just had a great time with it. It's way, way obsessed with sex, which can sometimes annoy me, but when a main character is as likeable as Austin Carr that's not such an obnoxious thing. The man's just unlucky enough to evoke a sympathetic response, especially from a female reader. And Kelly, the knockout redhead, is probably enough to pretty much cement the male readership, too.

Keep writing, Mr. Getze, and for goodness sake bring back Austin Carr. He's likeable, he's funny and something tells me he has a little energy left in him yet. Ramp up the detail a smidge and you'll have even Papa Hemingway smiling in approval (especially if you bring in more busty redheads).
ISBN 1-59133-193-5
One of the basic rules of story telling is that everybody loves the good guy and hates the bad guy. This provides conflict, moves the story, and tells us who to cheer for. But there is a grey area in between the good guys and the bad guys where some characters thrive. We watch them choose between good and evil and wonder if they will ultimately be redeemed or slip away completely. Getze chose to make one of those middle ground guys, Austin Carr, the main character in his first book, Big Numbers.

Austin Carr is a man whose life has changed drastically in a short period of time. His marriage has fallen apart, his income as a stock broker has fallen off sharply, he has been evicted from his apartment and is now living in a truck camper, he is drinking too much, and he has been banned from seeing his kids until he pays his back child support. And it is the last thing that is killing him – he is desperate to see his children. So when he is presented with the opportunity to do something shady to get $58,000 to pay off his ex-wife and see his kids again… you get the idea.

Big Numbers is both a caper and a mystery story. And it starts off with a bang as Carr is about to be killed by an unknown man in an unusual fashion – by being dragged off a fishing boat and down to a watery grave by a giant bluefin. The story then rewinds three weeks as Carr tells the reader how he got into this predicament. We spend the book trying to guess the identity of the unknown man on the fishing boat as Carr’s scam becomes more complicated and he manages to alienate just about everyone he knows.

Big Numbers is a gritty, sexy, violent, and funny book. And yes, you end up cheering for the bad guy because there is a whole lot of grey in this book filled with outrageous characters and situations.

Favorite character? I could tell you, but that might give away the ending. Did I guess it? No. Will I read another? Yes.
Mystery Book Reviews by Liz at ©2007
Buy it from Amazon!

Posted: February 18th, 2007

Reviewed By: Pat Reid - RAM

Can you imagine your stockbroker living in a truck-mounted camper and driving his pick-up from place
to place with his residence attached? That isn’t how we picture most stockbrokers but Austin Carr is not your run of the mill stockbroker. He is divorced, unable to see his children because he is behind in his support and his ex-wife is not very understanding about the fact that he owes her $58,000.00. His landlord wasn’t too understanding when he got behind in his rent; hence, the camper home.

He currently is parking his home outside a local Mexican restaurant where he spends a lot of his time drinking with the owner.
His sales manager is called Rags and Austin isn’t one of his favorite salesmen. The fact that Austin seems to make a career out of trying to make Rags look bad at the office doesn’t help matters a bit.

Austin’s biggest client Gerry Burns makes the announcement to Austin that he has cancer and his condition is terminal. Gerry wants Austin to begin turning his assets into cash. Gerry also introduces his beautiful red-headed wife to Austin so they would be acquainted and it would be easier down the road for Kelly to deal with Gerry’s estate.

Kelly starts seeing Austin on the side and tries to convince him to help her hide some of Gerry’s assets since she is afraid his children will take everything.

If that isn’t enough to throw Austin into a turmoil another client Psycho Samson is after Austin over a deal that has gone bad and anything short of killing Austin isn’t good enough for Samson.

Big Numbers is a fast read and reveals a pretty neat operation once everything is out in the open. The story is action packed and Austin has a few short trips to the ER but Getze brings the book to a satisfactory conclusion.
Pat Reid - RAM Reprinted with permission.

SciFi Fant

The Rose and Thorn, APRYL FOX
Big Numbers by Jack Getze is a riveting tale about a stockbroker who is re-living the last moments of his life––literally. When Austin Carr is snatched from a fishing yacht off the coast of Florida, he realizes he has made a mistake in the past that has led up to these events, but he doesn’t know what it was or why this man (whom he dubs Mr. Blabbermouth) is after him. He must use his memories and quick wit to find out what the heck he did to get himself into this mess.

Can Austin dredge up the memories that have brought him to this point and save himself from being turned into fish bait? Only time––and a whole lotta money––will tell.

This novel is full of action, adventure, suspense, and yes, even a little romance. Eerily suspenseful, and written in easy-to-read prose, Big Numbers by Jack Getze is a sure-fire mystery you’ll be proud to give as a gift or buy for yourself.  Bruce Grossman
“The stench of my own vomit fills my nose.” That’s got to be one of my favorite opening lines I’ve ever read. It’s in Jack Getze’s novel BIG NUMBERS, in which Austin Carr waits to be killed via bluefin tuna, thanks to the bad guy, aka Mr. Blabbermouth.

Rewind to three weeks earlier: Carr – a divorced, down-on-his-luck stockbroker – is so on the short end of the stick, that he’s living in a truck camper. You know, the old type that fits over the truck bed – the kind that reeks of “living the high life.”

Against the owners’ wishes, Carr camps out in a Mexican restaurant’s parking lot when he learns his one big client is on his way out due to cancer. This is when we meet a red-headed femme fatale, aka the rich man’s “wife.” After discovering what the will really says, she wants Carr to help her cash in some bonds before it’s too late. Of course, she’ll use any womanly charms to aid her in that attempt.

If this was all Carr had to deal with, maybe he could survive. However, Carr also has a supervisor just looking for any way to get rid of him and latch onto his clients. Then there is an ex-football player screwed over too many times by bonds gone bad and wants his money.

BIG NUMBERS plays like a dark comedy set in the stock world, with a healthy dose of crime mixed in. Getze needs to prune back a little on the bond talk, since some of those passages made my eyes glaze over.

But on the whole, the comedic value of the situation wins out. There are some great touches in the story, even if some surprises will be evident to any hardcore mystery reader. BIG NUMBERS is a fine diversion in the world of hardboiled fiction, and announces the arrival of an up-and-coming talent. –Bruce Grossman

BIG NUMBERS is a story about a deadbeat guy who hates his job, named Austin Carr, whose judgement becomes impaired by the smaller of his two heads, namely the one in his pants.

Awful things happen to Austin repeatedly, and still he keeps his salesman’s smile and dogged optimism; the story feels predictable, cringe-making, until kla-bam! there are twists ... leading to other twists. Austin’s painful calamities become more fantastic as the story progresses.

Surrealism did not lessen my interest in the story one whit. Somehow I then became convinced the protagonist would not only survive — he would triumph in some way. In several spots in BIG NUMBERS, the protagonist comes to realizations that are truly meaningful, beyond the range of the mystery story. And Austin gives us hope for other job haters and deadbeat dads.

One third of the way through the story, I took a break to cook lunch, giving me an opportunity to realize that I liked neither the protagonist nor the way the story was unfolding. At the time, I postulated that Austin was too much of a loser and the story reminded me of the slick, over-sexed tough guys of mystery stories from forty years ago. Lunch done, I continued reading BIG NUMBERS, and thoroughly enjoyed the book.

The only reason I can reference my early criticism is because, in a time-out, I took a thermometer on my impressions. Having finished the story in one sitting (it was fun), I no longer feel the same way about Austin and have no idea why my opinion changed.

BIG NUMBERS is a beautiful example of a well-used Prologue. Not only does the prologue cast a shadow across subsequent events, but as hints are dropped into the story, I found myself wondering whether this new piece of information would relate back to the prologue.

It was a stimulating experience and brought tension and extra interest to the story. When the event finally arrived, however, I found myself skipping over the text; the language was too repetitious of the prologue, and it was too long.

One of the nicest features of BIG NUMBERS is the way the author discards the current storyline, like removing the outer layer of a russian puzzle doll, to reveal the hidden agenda of another storyline inside. Again and again appears another matryoshka nesting doll painted in different colours; the good guys and the bad guys change places, and then everyone plays musical
chairs to see who will survive. It’s really quite delightful. June 23, 2007

Big Numbers is Big Fun
Okay, so I fell behind my one a day plan. MySpace didn't help. I had to go nine yards backwards and then sideways to get into the freaking blog today.

But that aside - BIG NUMBERS by Jack Getze! First of all, the "hero" of this story is Austin Carr, a divorced stock broker, deeply in debt to his ex-wife on child support, and about to lose his biggest client ever.

How is he losing this client? The guy is dying. Or so he says. And his gorgeous younger wife immediately begins using Austin as a sex toy for comfort.

While this is going on, a retired professional wrestler, turned fishing boat captain, has lost a lot of money in an investment recommended by Austin, and he has every intention of not only getting all his money back, but killing Austin in the process.

Soon there's lots of dying going on - and a couple of times it's looking like it's going to be Austin - but he manages to escape. Once by the grace of his ill-tempered boss who shoots at the crazed wrestler.

So there's a lot of wackiness in Austin's world, limited contact with the children he loves, some wheeling-dealing that's not exactly legal with some stocks and bonds, and best of all - friends and lovers who turn out to have less than his best interest at heart.

I'll admit that I have limited to no interest in the whole investment world. It's always seemed a little too chancey, and far too often more than a tad shady. Nothing in this book changes that opinion at all. (grin)

But Austin manages, in spite of himself, to be kind of a winning guy. I like him, don't want to see him get killed, and groan loudly when I think his "little head" is about to lead him into far more trouble than his "big head and bad deals" ever could.

It's a fast read at under 200 pages, but it's ultimately fun and worth a few hours of watching a man wrangling his way in and out of trouble - not with the greatest of ease, but certainly with a level of style that is appealing.


Q&A with Jack Getze

Big Numbers is Jack Getze's first novel--a page turning thriller (not that he hasn't been writing and writing and submitting)--so we thought we'd ask him about that and his wonderful characters and classy intrique. Armchair Interviews created the questions. Now see how Jack so smartly answered them:

Q: This is your first published book. How many publishers or agents did you talk to before Big Numbers became reality--and why did you go with Hillard Harris?

A: I was already working with an agent when I wrote this version of Big Numbers. She'd been helping me rewrite a thriller about California's desert indians, but she thought I'd written myself into a corner and needed to "work on something else for a while." She asked what I had in the can of 10 unpublished novels, and when I mentioned this one, she said, "I like that stockbroker story." I wrote it in six weeks and she loved it, so we talked marketing strategy. She went to H&H right away because she thought it was a good fit, and other, NY editors said they wanted female protags, not males.

Q: If your main character wasn't in the stock and bonds business, what other profession do you think would be a good setting for a book?

A: I've tried a couple of newspaper reporters. That's pretty common, sure, but I think it's important for me to write what I know.

Q: You set this book on the New Jersey shores where you live? What other locations for a book intrigue you?

A: I love the desert, particularly around the Santa Rosa mountains and the Salton Sea in Southern California. I was working on a thriller set there when my agent pushed me back into Big Numbers .

Q: Stock and bonds salesman Austin Carr is both smart and stupid, immoral and ethical, and smart alecky and empathetic. How do you balance that for a realistic, strong and intriguing character?

A: I look at the people around me. I look inside myself. I think we are all a mixture of good and bad, sometimes even good and evil. I think we all live a balancing act.

Q: Do your characters come out of your imagination, or do real stories ever trigger these people to jump out of your head?

A: Often the initial spark for a character is suggested to me by a real person, but I like to exaggerate things, focus on a particular trait or feature until the reality fades away. There are no real people in my books. But some of the stories in this one are based on real events--the broker marrying his rich client's widow, the giant bluefin dragging a fisherman overboard to his death. I made these true events fit the story I wanted to tell.

Q: How do you get into the mind of a criminal or underhanded business person, with connections to evil such as smuggling immigrants, laundering money, etc. etc.?

A: I interviewed and wrote about many people like this during my career as a financial and economics reporter. Greed--the desire for money and the freedom it can bring--is another little piece of human nature I think most of us have to balance. Once money becomes that important, the evil that men can do to get it is well recorded.

Q: How did you decide to tell this story from the first person of Austin Carr? Do you think it enhanced the tension for the reader to be in his skin?

A: I wrote a lot of unpublished novels before Big Numbers sold. My biggest problem, I now believe, is that I always had trouble getting emotion on paper. Being a man is one handicap. Working for 15 years as a newspaper reporter is another. The facts, ma'am. Just the facts. I was taught a technique for overcoming this--writing in the first person--and the plan just turned into a novel. I've heard others say that first person ties the reader closer to your character, but I chose it to help me put more feelings and thoughts inside the story.

Q: Is there a reason you made one of your characters be terminally ill rather than dispose of him some other way?

A: Strictly plot device. I wanted that character alive at the start of the story, and then available to pop in and out from time to time. I needed to stretch his death out.

Q: Are you as smart alecky as Austin Carr? And if so, has anyone ever wanted to smack you for a smart retort?

A: Not usually. I don't think of the really good lines in conversation, only after a day or two of reflection. But I do blurt out impulsive one-liners occasionally. No slaps yet. But it sounds like you'd like to smack Austin. He could use one now and again. Maybe I'll work that into the next story.

Q: What is the reason most of your characters have names and then quirky, always changing nicknames?

A: I heard a few nicknames working at the newspapers, but when I moved to New Jersey and became a stockbroker in a big bullpen of telephone brokers, EVERYBODY had a nickname. I think of it as a New Jersey thing. People seem to need funny tags back here, an easy and harmless way to poke fun at their friends.

Q: How did the idea of him living in a junky old pickup camper truck happen?

A: I worked with a guy who had his alimony and support payments fixed by the court while he was making about $10,000 a month, but then the market crashed and his income dropped to to half that. He had some fight with his lawyer, couldn't get anything changed, and within a few months he was living in the back of his Chevy to make those payments. I know this isn't the usual problem with alimony and child support payments. Way, way too many fathers fail miserably and inexcusably in meeting their children's needs. But this one case stuck with me because I was so close to it, although again, I exaggerated the Chevy into a seedy camper.

Q: When, how and where do you write? What are you working on now?

A: I write very early in the morning, every day, seven days a week, in a one room office one mile from my home. Even when I'm traveling, I try hard every morning to write something to keep my story going forward and my subconscious involved with the characters. Right now, I'm working on the third Austin Carr Mystery. The second, tentatively called Big Money, is finished and scheduled to come out in 2008.

Q: What advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

A: Learn to accept criticism well. It's the best single way to improve your craft and grow as a writer. It took me years. I'd get angry, defensive, and then want to go hide, be alone with my stories. Eventually, after a lot of practice and guidance from instructors, I learned to listen to what others had to say about my work with a clear and calm mind, take notes, then go back and read those notes a day or two later. Much of what other unpublished writers told me was crap, but gems appeared regularly from the most unlikely candidates--gems such as my lack of emotion, the need for tension on ALL of my pages, not just many, and some crazy word choices I dredged up from heaven knows where. I learned to take the criticism that made sense (without my own emotions getting in my way) and ignore the rest.
From Our Armchair to Yours ...