Under the Skin

Written by William Morrow
Review by Steve Lewis

These two Prohibition-era tough-guy crime thrillers (this one and A World of Thieves) are almost (but not quite) the continuation of the other, and there’s at least one set of characters who appear in both books.

In the more recent book, Under the Skin, taking place in 1936, Jimmy “The Kid” Youngblood works as an enforcer for the two crime bosses of Galveston — the same two brothers whose reputation for enforcing their hold on the town’s various vices was the reason why Sonny LaSalle and his kin moved on through so quickly, heading for easier pickings. Jimmy, it is quickly deduced, is the illegitimate son of one of Pancho Villa’s more ruthless aides, making it abundantly clear that blood runs true.

Both books are filled with rough-arm tactics of all sorts, broken arms and kneecaps, gouged eyes, slit throats, shotgun blasts to the chest, hilarious vulgar witticisms, and sexy dames with come-hither lust in their eyes. Crime is more than fun, as Sonny tells Belle in bed on page 197, there’s nothing like it. Then she shows him he’s wrong.

Jimmy’s life is also enhanced by a young girl he falls in love with at first sight, but their days together turn out to be severely numbered.

There’s little character development in either book, the greatest drawback of each. These are the stories of two naturally born killers, and they both end that way, in similar fashion, in beautifully choreographed finales, bloody and inevitable.