The wreckage of the past has caught up with Will Magowan in Mercerís tale of good guys versus bad guys. A former undercover narcotics detective who sampled too much product and was eventually terminated by the LAPD, Will has cajoled his way into a job in security at LAís Dodger Stadium - but on probation with a reluctant boss who suspects his new hireís lack of commitment. When drug dealer Erik Crandall approaches Will, the former undercover narc can barely recognize the steroid-enhanced giant demanding $500,000 restitution for drugs Crandall insists Will stole before his trial. His final days on the force still a hazy memory, Will is certain he never touched the evidence on the major bust.
Erik has spent the years of his incarceration anticipating this moment, determined to make Will cough up the ill-gotten bounty one way or another. This is the crux of Mercerís novel, although the resolution of the issue is a long slog that is obvious to everyone but Will (even the reader). His young sonís death tipped Magowan into the neverland of oblivion through substance abuse. Now his wife, Laurie, is pregnant again, and Will refuses to be intimidated by the threatening bulk of Erik Crandall, his menace enhanced by the colorful, life-sized eyes tattooed on the back of his bald pate.
When Crandall intrudes into the sanctity of Magowanís home, the former copís calls for help from law enforcement fall on deaf ears, the department burned by Willís unsavory past and Crandallís savvy in making threats without leaving a scrap of physical evidence. Will is forced to get creative, opening the door to the past and releasing a Pandoraís box of other possibilities and a betrayal that may threaten Will and Laurieís carefully constructed new life with soon-to-be-child. Itís a simple enough dynamic - good versus evil - but Crandall is almost too physically bizarre not to stand out as a suspicious character on the streets of LA. Itís hard to imagine that a bulked out, Ďroid raged monster with eyes on the back of his head wouldnít raise a few eyebrows, even on the West Coast.
Once Crandall unleashes his temper, the violence predictably accelerates. Meanwhile, Willís wife naively expects him to choose between her and the gun he purchases, a bit incongruous considering the threat level to her own well-being. But that is the nature of Mercerís story: incongruities and disproportionate situations, bystanders apparently oblivious to the ongoing mayhem. Still, the plot moves along, though the problem of the missing money is a little too easily resolved, Will redeeming himself in a blaze of courage, the ugly truth of a sordid past revealed. Mildly entertaining and often outrageous, East on Sunset is a witty take on the absurdities of crime and punishment in LA.