SCOTT PHILLIPS – The Ice Harvest. Dennis McMillan, hardcover, 1999. Ballantine, paperback, 2001. Film: Bona Fide/Focus, 2005 (with John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton).

   Charlie Arglist runs some strip clubs and massage parlors in Wichita for some mobsters. He and his buddy Vic have been skimming off the top for a few years now, selling coke on the side, and have timed it so that right before the banks close on Christmas eve, they’ll empty out the operating accounts of the businesses and fly to Europe with a quarter million bucks.

   Unfortunately for hapless Charlie, everything that could go wrong, goes wrong. And were it not for the ultraviolence, we’d be looking at a Dortmunder-esque bumble.

   But this ain’t Dortmunder. It is extraordinarily violent. And the bodies pile up in what would be a disturbing affair — were it not for the karmic just deserts that befall each and every asshole. And they’re all assholes.

   It’s a dark dark comedy. The blackest of comedies. For the joke is on the greedy vicious perps. And that’s everybody. It’s not a comedy in the classic sense that the protagonist gets what they want. It’s a slapstick comedy where the protagonist and his cohorts get what they deserve. Which is nothing but pain, humiliation and eternal damnation.

   If you’re into schadenfreude, it’s a load of laughs. Read this quote. If it makes you laugh out loud, check the thing out. If not, not:

   “You’ll rue the day you decided you could pull this kind of shit on me, you toothless old whore. I promise you will regret the day you were fucking born.” He slammed the receiver down, then picked it back up and screamed into it at the top of his lungs, then slammed it down into its cradle again and again, until finally, breathing hard, he looked up at Charlie…..”Sorry. That was my mom; she wants me to pick up my kids tonight instead of tomorrow. She and her shitbag husband decided they wanna head for Garden of the fucking Gods at six a.m. on Christmas morning.”