Concrete Smile: Bernard Maestas
Within Newport City the streets are about to become sizzling hot. They would become hotter than a raging inferno or a five alarm fire as the gangs that live within this city take charge of the streets, fight for their turfs and hopefully knock out the rest. The Reds, The Triad, the Chinese and the Smiling Jacks, all vying to run the show as someone wants to orchestrate a gang war that would bring the city to its knees, take over the contracts for trucks, buildings, businesses and control what will be allowed in and what will not. Crime bosses that want it all as the Police Commissioner and the Mayor are blackmailed into submission but three people will stop at nothing to bring them down.
The story opens with a murder in a warehouse and a theft within the building. The night watchman is killed and the events to follow will spiral into a nightmare that no city wants or can endure. Meet Kevin Wyatt who is summoned by the head of the Red Nation, King Jamal to find out what is happening and get the evidence on those that are trying to start this war so that he can end it all. Fires torching buildings, robberies, warehouse murder and then a trucking heist going south, Kevin is hired by the Red Nation’s leader to along with Chance McKaegan his ex-enforcer brother to get the scoop you might say on the other gangs. Right out of prison Chance is a striking figure and one that you don’t want to cross. Taking heed of his brother’s warnings and knowing that he needed his help they present a united front when confronted with discord, dangerous situations and gang members that come at them from all sides. Kaity Lockhart has a stake in what is happening since her boyfriend and lover Kyle was the night watchman murdered. Angry, sad, remembering how they met and why they meshed despite that fact that he was into drugs and selling them, the loss is felt as the author recounts how she met Kyle, why she left home for the safety of his apartment and how she, Kevin and chance would go undercover, hit the dangerous bars and clubs, come face to face with gang leaders and hopefully strike hard and win for Kyle and Newport City.
The story opens with a graphically depicted murder, a truck filled with weapons high jacked and lives lost. One man hopes to create peace but with gangs in control and one gang wanting it all with the help of AMC and its security force led by Michael Beecher and his henchmen this might never happen. Peace is out of the question. War is the name of the winning game as Kevin, Chance and Kaity will fight for their lives more times and in the end you won’t believe the choices made. Some wars are fought for political reasons, others for differences among the people but this one is being fought for nothing more than power and control over the economic situation of a small town that is defenseless against the AMC, its leaders and the power they yield among those in government that take their bait, are corrupt or are too scared to stand up to them. What happens when King Jamal orders everyone to a summit meeting thinking that he has it all under control? What happens when a traitor in their midst opens fire and the entire event proves fatal?
Michael Beecher is dangerous causing the city of Newport to be placed on the fringe of an all out gang war. Construction halted, fires, shipping in one or two highjackings away from grinding to a complete halt. The police do nothing and seem helpless against him. With the Mayor’s emissary and the Police Commissioner in tow how could he fail? But, when the Commissioner dares to say he will arrest him, Beecher takes it as a sick joke and treats him as nothing more than a cartoon character in a children’s role. Greasing palms, making sure the right contracts are signed and given to him, no criminal charges dared to be filed and the threat of strangling shipping lanes and making it impossible for goods to enter the city, what are they going to do? Why can no one stand up to him and AMC?
Meet the Smiling Jacks more deadly than the other gangs and powerful because they have the right corporate sponsors. So will they cave in and give them the lucrative contracts and subcontracts in area they demand them in? What about eliminating the competition and given large sums of money to keep quiet? Not being able to stop crime will the commissioner realize he is fighting a losing battle? What about to the power of the police? Are these gangs more powerful and how can they control the law?
Meet Axe the head of Smiling Jacks and as Kevin and Chance meet with him when King Jamal seems to be missing the end result is quite different than you would expect. Bribes, threats, promises and more are the core of this meeting but will Kevin give in or will he do what he does best? Axe never saw it coming and Kaity along with Kevin took action as she is no one to take lightly and appears to be able to defend herself. But, things take another turn that no one expects. Three Hispanics, several Smiling Jacks and chapter 12 is a fight to the finish and the scene is graphic, fast paced and will keep the reader wanting to join in the fight with Kevin, Chance and Kaity to protect the people of Newport City from total destruction.
Things spiral out of control and both Chance and Kevin take a hit but which one will fall? As Kaity enters her apartment she is greeted by a dangerous member of a gang and what he has in mind for her you won’t believe. But, she is smart, quick and will not allow him to abuse her or take advantage of her ever! What she does will endear you to her and allow readers to know that author Bernard Maestas created a female reporter that is astute, keen and stronger than most. Able to hopefully fend him off what happens will remain a blur in her mind until Kevin and Chance hopefully come to her rescue. An ending that will allow readers to know that gangs want their turf, some won’t back down and sometimes winning does not mean the same as it does to others. Winning means losing sometimes to stay alive but this ending leaves you wondering what happens to Chance when using himself as a decoy to get away from the Smart Jacks? Will Kevin leave Newport City as promised? Will Kaity go with him or does she still have one more battle to fight? A fast past novel filled with violence, graphic scenes and difficult situations as the author brings to light what happens when gangs rule, won’t back down and power, money and greed RULES THE STREETS OF A CONCRETE SMILE! The graphic cover says it all!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine