Start Shooting: A Novel

Image of Start Shooting
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
January 10, 2012
Publisher/Imprint: 
Doubleday
Pages: 
320
Reviewed by: 

“The writing in Start Shooting is crisp, the dialogue excellent. The street vernacular and cop speak is right on. In fact, much of it is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard’s writing style. And just as Mr. Leonard is known to say, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip,” Charlie Newton has done the same thing. Start Shooting is a dynamic thriller that captures the dark side of Chi-town’s cops and gangs. Don’t miss this book, it is both an energizing and compelling read.”

Start Shooting is not for the faint of heart. A fast-paced thriller, it has more twists and turns than Riverview, Chicago’s old amusement park.

Start Shooting is a complex read, not recreational in the sense that one can consider it a beach read nor one that can be picked up when time permits. Devote blocks of time to get the full impact of Charlie Newton’s story.

Set in contemporary Chicago, Start Shooting is the story of two brothers, Bobby and Reuben Vargas, both Chicago cops, and an aspiring actress, Arleen Brennan, all three of whom are sucked into a huge tornado-like case that threatens to wipe out the city’s population.

Gritty hardly describes the action in Start Shooting—it’s darn right terrifying and, at times, unimaginable. The author brings us into the eye of the storm, allowing us to see the inner workings and mindsets of both cops and gang members. To the extent that a writer who has not been a cop or gang member can, author Charlie Newton captures the zeitgeist well. He does a good job of describing the constant chess game that is the ever-present street battle waged between cops and gangs, each trying to carve out their domain and rule their turf.

As a former Chicago cop and 33-year law enforcement veteran, I cringed a little when the author referred to a weapon’s magazine as a “clip.” That’s a common mistake many non-law enforcement types make. But this little bump in the road shouldn’t matter to most readers; it was simply surprising after Mr. Newton had gotten so much right about police work.

The author drenches the reader in the rain of other issues, including a decades old murder and the threat of biological warfare, the latter causing the involvement of the FBI and CIA. Pretty odd, yet a unique twist keeps readers on their toes trying to figure out how this potential catastrophe plays into the story.

Mr. Newton’s book, set in the “Second City,” would not be complete if he had not included Chicago politics. Again he is right on the money as he guides us through the dynamics of how the machine gets things done—one way or another.

One thing that stood out for me immediately was the bond and brotherhood found between members in both groups. Cops and gang members consider each other family, and no one on either side is willing to rat out a brother. In that regard, that familial bond is difficult to penetrate and overcome. The story illustrates that point quite well.

The writing in Start Shooting is crisp, the dialogue excellent. The street vernacular and cop speak is right on. In fact, much of it is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard’s writing style.

And just as Mr. Leonard is known to say, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip,” Charlie Newton has done the same thing. Start Shooting is a dynamic thriller that captures the dark side of Chi-town’s cops and gangs. Don’t miss this book, it is both an energizing and compelling read.