Peter Craig

"Hot Plastic"

(reviewed by Chuck Barksdale APR 23, 2004)

“I’m angry because I hate phony righteousness. Right now it’s all on me, and that’s fine. If we get picked up tomorrow—Colette, you’ll say you were kidnapped, and Kevin will pretend to be an idiot savant who doesn’t know anything but computers. But time will go by, and you’ll have to make some choices. You’re not thieves right now, you’re a couple of shoplifting babies. And you’re toying with all these little ideas about yourselves—‘Oh, I only rob from bad people,’ or ‘I only take what I deserve,’ ‘I’m too good to do this, but not that.’ Give me a break. If you want to live outside the rules, kids, then there’s one moral: protect yourself and your crew. That’s what I’m doing. So don’t rely on me, expect me to save your asses, cart you around, and then act like you’re better than me because I’m willing to use anything I can. So far you’ve only seen the good times. When it gets bad, and believe me, things can get [] awful—then you’ll change your tune, baby. I don’t care what you believe in, I don’t care what the name on your little phony license or that little phony passport says—you’ll find out exactly who you are. Both of you. Goddamn it, I’m seasick!”

Hot Plastic by Peter Craig

Peter Craig’s second novel features the exploits of three grifters, Jerry Swift, his teenage son Kevin and a part-time babysitter and eventual full-time thief Colette. The book takes place in the 1980’s, starting in the summer of 1983 when Kevin is a few months from his 15th birthday and his father first decides he needs someone to watch Kevin while he “works.” Soon after hiring the 17-year-old Colette to help, he has her in his bed and in his business.

Jerry Swift is always trying to find any angle he can to steal money from people; running some scam or another to get money from unsuspecting people. Of course, these people eventually realize what Jerry is really after, so Jerry, Kevin and Colette are always on the move, living in cheap hotel rooms throughout the US, hoping for the big score.

The book continues through the 1980’s with Kevin getting more involved in his father’s business or taking on his own teenage version -- being a pick-pocket, finding ways to make free phone calls and stealing magnetic information on stolen credit cards. Colette eventually tires of Jerry’s advances and does not know how to deal with the too-young Kevin’s interest so she moves out on her own. Kevin also works independently for a while when his father is eventually caught by the police and imprisoned.

The book also includes a parallel story of a slightly older Kevin and another woman, Elizabeth. Kevin is seriously injured as a result of a sting gone badly and Elizabeth places him in a hospital and then quickly escapes to avoid capture by the police. By the end of the book, the two stories combine as the Kevin ages in the main story into the age of the parallel story.

This is definitely a well-written book, with convincing, realistic, but very flawed characters. Unfortunately, for me, anyway, the characters are too flawed and I had a hard time caring about them. This, of course, reduced my interest in the book, and I had difficulty at times finding the time to read it, though in the end, I did finish the book and can say that I generally enjoyed it. This book is being marketed as a sometimes-funny suspense novel, and although I did find suspense, I did not find many humorous parts; the characters are just too pathetic for me find them funny.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 12 reviews


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About the Author:

Peter Craig grew up dividing his time between his show business family in Los Angeles (he is the son of actress Sally Field) and a commune in Oregon. He ia a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient of a James Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. Craig, a single Dad, lives in a farmhouse in Iowa City with his two children.

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