Beat the Reaper – or Crank, the novel


My mother lent me this book about a mobster who mows through scumbags like a combine harvester, throws people out of windows, kills them with glass coffee tables, and becomes a doctor in Witness Protection. It’s sort of like Scrubs, Bringing out the Dead, the Sopranos, and Crank all put together. It would make an awesome movie, for guys. Because it’s fuckin’ ridiculous. In a good way.

Dr. Brown is an intern at Manhattan Catholic, and we meet him at the beginning of a long shift at the horrible hospital, where he gets mugged in the parking lot. But because he used to be Pete “Bearclaw” Brnwa, a killer for the mob, he breaks the guy’s arm, knocks him out cold, takes the piece off him and heaves him over his shoulder to be deposited in the E.R. See, he don’t like killing people no more. Now he wants to save them. Go figure.

He’s had it good for a few years, but everything goes to shit when a goomba with cancer is admitted, someone he recognizes from the past. Does he whack him? This spirals the story through flashbacks, sending us back to the late ’80s from how a nice Polish Jewish boy ended up in the mafia, clashes with the Russian mob in Brighton Beach, hunting down not only his grandparent’s killers but even the Polish traitors who send them to the camps, back in Warsaw. It’ll lead us to slavery rings in the Jersey swamps, fights in shark tanks, and using human bones as makeshift shivs. It’s hilarious, and you barely have time to breathe between the over the top action scenes.

Sure, it’s ridiculous, but it’s funny and gripping. Peter Brnwa is a one of a kind character, and peppers his monologues with medical snippets and historical anecdotes. It’s a blazing fast read and one you won’t soon forget. Read it before Hollywood adapts it next year. Leonardo DiCaprio is set to produce and star- another horrible miscasting for pretty boy Leo. Bearclaw is a tattooed tough guy who’d beat you to death with his severed arm if you chopped it off. I can’t see Leo doing that, even after The Departed. There’s a little two-faced shit in the book he’d be perfect for.