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      Jim Lawler: HATE UNTIL WARM.      

Hate Until Warm is the second crime novel by Liverpool author Jim Lawler.  I was a fan of his debut novel, Mortal Shuffle.  That book delivered a complex hero and high literary style.   Hate Until Warm is just as ambitious and as successful but in a different way. This time no frustrated over-educated policeman drives the narrative.  The characters of Hate Until Warm are tough but not educated.  It is other people and not life that baffles.  Harry Dunn is not capable of the complex introspection of the hero of Mortal Shuffle but he is ill at ease in a world that has people too willing to betray him.  Fortunately our two fisted hero can throw a punch. Hate Until Warm is written with plenty of style. Harry Dunn is not smart but he can deliver a Scouse wisecrack.  And Harry has company.  Victor the audacious Belarus assassin is able to create instant turmoil.  The Belarusian and his surprises soon become a guilty pleasure for the reader.

Hate Until Warm is a cracking hard-case thriller.  There are plenty of violent confrontations and they all confirm that Lawler can write action as well as he can explore damaged males.  Aware of the history of violent struggle in fiction Lawler loads the book with Western references.  The fight and shootout in the empty fake Western town for tourists is fabulous, and in most books would have been the climax, but it has plenty of company. The bank robbery in the opening scene is stunning.  Although there are many splendid action set pieces in the rest of the book, this chapter alone makes the book an essential read.

Not that the characters in Hate Until Warm are underdeveloped.  The friction between members of a dysfunctional half-formed family is unusual in a tale of conflict between gangsters.  The patriarch is not all powerful as is usual.  He is remote from Dunn the son that he failed to acknowledge.  Harry Dunn not only has to stay alive and resist assassins from Belarus but determine how he manages his decrepit mother and a family that ignored him and has redefined itself while he has been absent from England and in Saudi Arabia.  When he returns to England, Harry is acknowledged by his father but discovers that his estranged wife, Pearl, is now living with his previously unknown brother. 

There is a link to MI6 because Harry has spent time in Saudi Arabia.  This, though, does not interfere with a tight plot and it exists to show that because Harry Dunn has changed he has options.  I am not sure how violent is Hate Until Warm.  It can startle but that is because the approach to violence is surprising.  Lawler is not intent on sadism but he is a stylist, and this is a tale of protagonists who, when they fight, will ensure that their opponent will not return with another blow.  Violence between these people means that someone will either die or have injuries that will affect the rest of their life.  Like Harry Dunn, Hate Until Warm has plenty of two-fisted punch.

By Irene Keith.