(THOUGHTS ON MONEY SHOT / CHOKE HOLD BY CHRISTA FAUST)
Note: Contains major spoilers.
People are, on the whole, unreliable. It’s a fact of life. Christa Faust populates her novels with unreliable, corruptible characters, knowing what an accurate prism of real life they are. And every character in Money Shot and Choke Hold has a certain amount of unreliability, apart from Angel. Angel is the one true constant holding both novels together. For all of the back-stabbing, double-crosses, murder, torture, rape, you name it, there is Angel and her sense of right and wrong. Her ability to keep her head in even the most dire circumstances. She’s not superhuman, or a robot. She breaks down at times. She succumbs to stress and trauma. If she didn’t we wouldn’t relate to her as real. We wouldn’t see what she’s going through as a real life and death situation.
And it’s not to say that Angel is uncomplicated. Quite the opposite. There is a lot to her that we know, and a hell of a lot we don’t. Faust is sure to keep many of the details vague, referencing them here and there. This is a good thing. Remember when you first read Silence of the Lambs? Hannibal Lecter was mysterious. How did he go from celebrated doctor to psychotic cannibal? How did he get caught? What makes him tick? You want to know more. You need to know more. And then you get Hannibal, and in many ways get what you asked for. You know everything about Lecter. Too much, in fact. He loses the air of mystery that made him attractive in the first place.
Faust keeps us out of the loop on a couple of things regarding Angel Dare, and I think it works brilliantly. Angel is a fascinating character because she is so realistic in the way that she thinks and acts. Her sexuality is a major part of Angel’s make-up, and Faust doesn’t once shy away from it. We see men through Angel’s eyes. We see what turns her on. Sometimes Angel uses sex to get over a problem. Sometimes it is to alleviate stress. To take herself away from it all, if for only a few minutes. When it comes to sex she can either be businesslike in her approach or, as all of us at times in our lives, impulsive and filled with longing. The ache in her bones that drives Angel to fulfill her needs is the same ache we all feel at times, and Faust is just acknowledging human nature by including it.
There were times during Money Shot and Choke Hold where I cringed at what was happening. The death of her best friend Didi in Money Shot. Finding Malloy dead in an alley after betraying her. Vic dying at the beginning of Choke Hold. Hank and Vukasin killing each other as Angel runs for her life. I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg here. A lot happens, and it comes quick and fast. In many ways Faust could have easily written the Angel Dare novels in a Western setting, replacing blowjobs with quickdraws at noon. Hers is the sort of heroine that could inhabit any setting, any genre. You like her, you care whether or not she lives. She’s not a carbon-copy good girl. Both Money Shot and Choke Hold could be the memoirs of a real person.
In all honesty I’ve not read many books with female protagonists. But because of Angel Dare (and Christa Faust) I will seek out more. I’ve enjoyed reading a gripping story, and seeing everything unfold through a woman’s eyes. I wonder how much of Faust is in Angel. I would bet there is quite a bit. She’s far too well-rounded, as a character, to be anything less than the reflection of a real, live person. I suppose that as writers we write characters who are the people we want to be, as much as the people we are.
I hope Faust does a third Angel Dare novel. I want to know what happens next. I want to know if Vukasin will ever catch up with her. I want to know if she will ever find someone to love her. I want to know if she will ever be able to stop running. More than anything, after all she’s been through, I just want to know if Angel will be okay.
If anyone deserves a happy ending, it’s her.