Stephen Solomita, Forced Entry (Avon, 1990)
[originally posted 12Dec2001]
Stephen Solomita has been laboring in the background of the thriller genre for over a decade without anyone really noticing his existence. His books are solid, easy to read, and a little on the genre-writing side, but that’s no reason to give him any less air time than, say, Tom Clancy or John Grisham, both of whom suffer from the same drawbacks as does Solomita.
In Forced Entry, we’re introduced to two very nasty characters, Marty Blanks and Marek Najowski, who are hatching a plan to force rent-control tenants out of Jackson Heights brownstones so they can tear down the buildings and sell the lots for huge profits. (Solomita notes in a small foreword that this is a common practice in New York, but that his particular slumlords aren’t based on anyone in particular.) One of the buildings they pick happens to contain a tenant whose niece is a legal aid lawyer, and that legal aid lawyer happens to be dating ex-cop private eye Stanley Moodrow, six feet of bad attitude who ends up getting involved in trying to figure out why a previously crime-free neighborhood is suddenly inhabited by hookers, dealers, and other various assorted types of New York-style lowlifes.
Like most middle-of-the-road genre novels, Forced Entry does have a few drawbacks. Marek Najowski had the potential to be a really absorbing character, the kind of guy who makes an author’s reputation, but Solomita never gives his character the development time it deserves. And too many minor characters in the book pop up, get described, and then die in some interesting and fun manner. (And by described, I’m not talking about the Stephen King-patented “here’s two lines about a character who’s going to die,” I mean a whole chapter that ends with the character’s death.) But as I said before, the difference between Stephen Solomita and some novelists who are considered world-class has a lot less to do with quality than it does with promotion; if you’re a fan of the rougher side of the thriller genre (think Rex Miller in a playful mood), then Solomita should be right up your alley. Most of his books, including this one, are listed at Amazon as out-of-print, but this one’s worth picking up if you find it at your local used bookshop. ** ½