ANTHONY GAGLIANO – Straits of Fortune. Jack Vaughn #1. William Morrow, hardcover, June 2007. Harper, paperback, June 2008.

   Jack Vaughn is a former New York City cop (there’s a long story behind that) who’s now a personal trainer in Miami, and in Straits of Fortune he takes on a job that might qualify him for unlicensed PI status if it weren’t totally illegal, no matter how you look at it.

   The father of his former girl friend (there’s a long story behind that, also) hires him to dispose of a yacht on which the body of the man his daughter dumped Jack for (that’s the long story told briefly) is still lying. Jack hesitates for most of a day, but an offer of $100,000 (half up front) has a way of allowing a lot of qualms to be shushed up and tossed away.

   There is a catch, of course. There is a second body on the yacht. Jack scuttles it anyway, but before he gets to shore, he is… Well, gee, I’m telling you the whole story. Suffice to say that Jack is in a jam, no doubt about it, and it’s a damn good thing he’s in shape, or he wouldn’t get out of it with an entirely whole skin.

   So. There’s lots of action, but there’s also a lot of backstory to be filled in, which Jack tells us about himself. To action fans, this is the kind of thing that could make for an awful lot of down time. The overall result is therefore a bit uneven, as first novels sometimes are, but there is, I found, a certain poetic flow to Gagliano’s prose that propelled me along with a nice rhythm and beat. It doesn’t quite smooth over one medium-sized hole in the plot, but it’s one I found easy enough to ignore, and I kept on reading.

   Nor is this all I should tell you. The last chapter, after all of the shooting is done, and some certain ends are tied up, is well worth the price of admission in itself.

   Now for the bad news. Anthony Gagliano was only partway through Jack Vaughan’s second adventure when he died of a stroke in 2009, at the age of only 53. This first novel was based on his master’s thesis at Florida International University, and Les Standiford and Dan Wakefield, his instructors and mentors there, took it upon themselves to work on the manuscript and finish the book for him.

   The title of the second book is The Emperor’s Club, and was published in 2014. I’ve already ordered a copy.