Cheap Thrills takes place over the course of a single weekend, beginning with the incessantly stoned Ethan and his roommate Phil discovering the body of their weed dealer in a Vancouver alley alongside a box of porno magazines and crime noir paperbacks. Tasked by his eccentric boss with locating the money the dealer had been carrying, gang member Wynne Duncan is led to the two roommates. But things don’t add up–for anybody. Cheap Thrills is about Vancouver, weed, lust, crime stories, a missing bag of money, an American conspiracy to invade Canada and the death of a drug smuggler. It is a paranoid crime-noir love story, where the love is unreciprocated and the noir is mostly in the mind.
I was excited when I got this book. We were hunkered (bunkered?) in our home like the rest of the world around COVID-19, emerging like groundhogs each day to cheer healthcare workers. To have a real book arrive felt like early Christmas. So after wiping things down, opening, sanitizing and rewashing, I was good to go.
David Kloepfer’s Cheap Thrills is an entertaining read – the author’s first novel, which shows – clearly a labour of love, with innovation slid into a familiar format. I enjoy the genre – a bit of action, sex, affably loathsome characters with a touch of depth and innocuous dialogue wrapped in Dashiell Hammett-esque noir, all in a compact two-hundred pages or so. A perfect self-isolating paperback.Like any pulp fiction, it’s imperative to read it as such. Don’t mistake it for literature. It’s not. If you love Elmore Leonard books, Quentin Tarantino, or Seth Rogen films, you’ll like this. You may not love it but you’ll like it. Kloepfer’s dialogue, at times, doesn’t ring true. But I find that with most dialogue-heavy manuscripts. It’s tough to write the way we talk. Harder yet to write the way other people speak. And perhaps hardest to write as a local when you’re not. Unless you’re a long-term resident of an area, writing that perspective is a tall order. Maybe a tougher editor would thresh that out. Maybe it takes greater objectivity or a productive split personality. But in this predominantly playful genre, it just doesn’t matter. Like when you see an actor’s wristwatch onscreen in Hamlet. You roll your eyes and get on with enjoying the film. As I’ve done here.
Kudos are in order. Kloepfer’s created, I believe, exactly what he intended. I not only enjoyed the read but recommend it to fans of this style – drugs, crime, mistaken identities, hoodlums and the ramblings of stoner conversation. Tucking vignettes from a fabricated dime-store crime novel into the pages of our story is unique, cheeky, and hopefully not repurposing old writing that couldn’t find a home. Either way, it plays. The book isn’t as enhanced by the story within the story as it could be, but to quote an applicable cliché, it does exactly what it says on the tin.
I always emphasize write what you know. David Kloepfer knows crime-noir. And it shows. Other writers know Vancouver and its drug scene a whole lot better. But again, that doesn’t really matter. Cheap Thrills is a fun read. Have another bong hit and enjoy.
About the Author: Born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, David Kloepfer has made his home in Vancouver since 2004. Cheap Thrills is his first novel.
About the Reviewer: Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Dromomania, and Allan’s Wishes. Bill’s work is published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. When not in a coffee house, library, studio, or on stage, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making friends and avoiding trouble. Mostly. @billarnott_aps
Cheap Thrills: A Novel by David Kloepfer
Now or Never Publishing
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