Not only is It's Not Easy Being Johnny Style not a "pulp fiction revival" as the back cover liner copy purports, it is barely fiction in any recognizable form. The attempt here was in fusing film noirish elements - the glib detective with the fast mouth and his way with fast women - with a quasi-contemporary high school adolescent coming of age drama. The book falls apart on both sides.
Johnny Style, main character, is so quick-mouthed as to be ridiculous. His retorts include, "I give size ten enemas," "I only go off fully cocked," and the bewildering moniker of "Snelgrove" with whom he adorns every distasteful person within hearing distance. There is no subtlety here, no Raymond Chandler gleam of character development, no believable emotions for the reader to feel. He's far too cool, far too good looking, and far too invincible to be of this world.
This is Jassoy's maiden voyage and like other new writers who need several books under their belts before really making a statement, the author is not even close to finding his frame of reference. There is a mini-prologue where Style receives a curious letter at his detective agency and it's based on such an obvious device - the mysterious sheet of paper revealing that his nemesis did not die in a hand grenade blast but is indeed still alive - that a marginal book is turned into something laughable.
But the author has sewn the seeds for a sophomore followup, and maybe here he'll begin to present the essentials like carefully crafted characters, enigmatic plot themes, and authentic and probing dialogue.
Tarentino took the genre of the absurd - cold-hearted killers, the pleasures of excess - and with his startling movie, Pulp Fiction, breathed new life into the category. Patrick Jassoy tried to latch on to what Quentin had birthed but alas, his baby was stillborn.