Monday, January 25, 2021
Thieves’ Market by A.I. Bezzerides
This 1949 novel is about independent truckers and the many scams and rip offs that they pull, and that get pulled on them.
Nick Garcos, a young man with a miserable job, a miserable girlfriend and a miserable widowed mother, steals the insurance money the old lady got when his father died and buys a truck so he can be his own boss as an independent produce hauler.
He teams up with a hardened trucker and together they buy two truckloads of apples from a farmer. When his partner tries to cheat the grower, Nick steps in and pays the man.
The two truckers head north to San Francisco to sell their combined loads at the produce market.
Along the way, there are mishaps with the old trucks and Nick arrives in town first. While waiting for his partner to arrive and negotiate a deal for the apples, a tough, crooked buyer sizes up Nick as easy prey. He pays a local hooker to distract Nick so the buyer can hijack his load.
Bezzerides knew his subject either from experience in his youth or from a great deal of research. Thieves’ Market feels like the real deal from the plot to the characters to the dialogue.
As he did in his earlier novel about the tough life of truckers, Long Haul (1938), Bezzerides writes in scenes that are vivid and alive. He makes the reader feel every bump in the road.
An unforgettable section is when Nick, on a lonely, dark stretch of highway, blows a tire. Not sure how far behind his partner is, Nick decides to change the flat himself. While under the truck, the jack slips and the truck comes down pinning Nick into the soft dirt. Unable to move and having difficulty breathing, he watches as the few vehicles on the road pass by without slowing down while he is stuck and dying.
Albert Isaac “Buzz” Bezzerides, (1908-2007) wrote three novels. Both trucking stories were bought by Hollywood and produced as movies. Bezzerides spent most of his career writing film and TV scripts.
Thieves’ Market is well worth the time to find and read.