Joe Café centres on the kidnapping of lap dancer Sara by psychotic killer Chet Mooney. While her boyfriend and the police look for them, the novel hones in on the private hell the dancer is going through at the hands of a man who is intent on purging his hatred on her.
The narrative voice is strong from the outset:
‘Joe Café opened in 1969 with no fanfare. It was a small-fronted diner. The kind of place that looks old for no discernible reason, dirty though it is impeccably clean.’
Stylistically the novel is both elegant and dark, moving between evocative descriptive passages and sharp edge dialogue. Using flashbacks it gets you inside the killer’s head and Mader cleverly manages to allow you to see the reasons Chet Mooney has ended up this way. This is one of the strengths of Joe Café, it digs behind the behaviour of the characters and gets beneath the skin. In its thematic darkness and narrative style Joe Café is a Noir novel and a fine one at that.
Mader has also structured his first novel brilliantly, moving with ease between the different perspectives of the characters. After the first chapter it is extremely hard to put down. You are pulled into the maelstrom of events sparked off by the abduction. Mader has a native elegance to his prose that offsets the more disturbing aspects of the novel.
The descriptions of being held captive and the physicality of the experience are powerfully told:
‘The hardest part is mental. We get used to having stimuli pounding into our brains. We get used to traffic and billboards and radio cures for baldness. Being in a dark room, tied to a chair, is an agony few experience.’
Sara’s imprisonment is the physical centre of the narrative as attempts to rescue her are made.
This is a sharply written highly readable novel that takes you to the dark side, I highly recommend it.
JD Mader is a writer, teacher, and musician who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. ‘Joe Café’ is his first self published novel. He also writes short stories. Much of his work is available for free at www.jdmader.com. His musical endeavors are also available for free download at last.fm and bandcamp…”The Flying Black Hats” – music recorded with longtime friend and accomplice Pat Patsie.
He likes fishing, motorcycles, and literature…not necessarily in that order…and if this was meant to be written in the first person, he is embarrassed.