Christopher Meeks knows how to engage a reader and tell a story. His collection of short stories, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea showcases Meeks' mastery of small moments and was the book that made me a huge fan of his work. The great joy I found in those stories compelled me to buy every other book he's written.
In this book, Blood Drama, tells a longer story. It begins with Ian Nash, a drama school grad student who is having a bad day. After being dropped from his Ph.D. program, Ian stops for coffee and manages to wind up as a hostage in a bank robbery gone wrong. It's a classic case of a bad day gone much worse.
Meeks takes all the cliches of a thriller, the desperate criminal, the wise-cracking cops, the beautiful FBI agent and the hapless every man caught in the middle and takes them mostly in the ways you'd expect. But there are enough "wait, he did what?" moments in the tale to keep you turning the pages and the dialog sparkles and cracks with wit. I found, as I turned the pages, that while I certainly didn't like every character (indeed, I found Ian pretty annoying at times) I cared what happened. I bought into the story and the characters.
Meeks is not afraid to be outrageous and while the book comes dangerously close to collapsing under the "writer's fantasy problem" (Do you think the beautiful FBI agent is going to fall for the annoying, self-absorbed, Mamet-obsessed writer-type? Is said writerly guy going to grow as a person and save the day? Well, what do you think!) Meeks manages to both play by the cliche, poke fun at it and hit a layer of truth underneath it all. When I've described some of the more outrageous scenes to friends they've said "that sounds awful." And you'd think it would be, but somehow under Meeks' watchful eye and wise pen, it's not.
Meeks writes about people trying to solve problem of making it through the day. Blood Drama sees just how bad a day can get. Meeks takes the thriller and gives it a heart. A dopey, exasperating heart, but one that beats true.