Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.
Lola. You’re not going to need a song named after this woman to remember her name. Read this visceral, real, sad, funny, scary book and the name will be stamped into your psyche like jagged glass.
Lola is unlike any other crime heroine I have read. She’s not your typical anti-heroine either, she is just Lola, she is bad, she is mad and not a woman to be messed with. She’s fragile, smart and lives according to her own rules.
In an opening scene which could be considered a hybrid of Desperate Housewives meets Twin Peaks; Lola and her partner [in love and in work] are throwing a barbeque for their Los Angeles neighbourhood. But just as her boyfriend, Garcia has finished cooking the steaks; the party is interrupted by a visitor who has no interest in the beer or the food. This unwelcome drop-in is known only as El Colleccionista [the Collector] a bad-ass enforcer for nasty drug lords.
Garcia and Lola are part of a small-time dope dealing ring called the Crenshaw Six. Yet another gang Los Liones has crossed the Big-Boys and the Collector ordering Lola and Garcia to hijack an impending deal. They also need to identify Los Liones’ new supplier, Mr X - because if they do all that, they will live.
You don’t need to consult the marijuana leaves to guess the interception is not going to go well. In fact, it goes very, very wrong. People die, millions of dollars of heroin disappears and the mysterious Mr. X vanishes before he can be identified.
What follows is a raucous three-day race throughout the right and wrong sides of Los Angeles.
The quest to stay alive and track down the lost drugs, and money takes Lola to an exclusive Malibu rehab centre surrounded by hipster coffee shops, smack dens, bodegas and overpriced restaurants.
The race soon evolves into a marathon to ensure Lola’s daughter figure Lucy Amaro doesn’t have to endure the degree of unspeakable harm Lola herself suffered as a child; as the damage is slowly revealed as the narrative takes a dark turn.
We learn that the young Lola was abused, neglected, traded as a kid, which has resulted into the adult Lola loathing drug abuse and its consequences. Though there is a paradox in her nature as Lola still peddles dope.
Lola’s observations and asides [about the triviality and falsity of the smoothie-chugging, blacktooth-dependent, allergic to everything yuppies] are very droll and inject much-needed levity to 300 pages of criminality, abuse, violence and death.
Though this novel is also about the significance of toil; about why we work, and about maintaining a work ethic. Lola looks at how work defines people, how professions interact, and how different skillsets can be honed to provide the desired results in a random world.
As the dénouement approaches we see that there are unlikely to be any Damascene conversions, or group hugs around a campfire; instead we see in Lola a character that is smart, funny and who has a solid code of ethics, even if they are somewhat skewed against society’s conventions.
Thankfully, the final pages indicate that Lola will return sooner rather than later. So until then it’s "Hasta la vista, baby".