This well-written debut novel takes bits and pieces of several different literary genres and mixes them up into a category that defies description. The book, which is written in the first person, initially starts out like a contemporary family drama, then changes to a gritty crime thriller and finishes up as a murder mystery. Your road on this journey is mapped out by Ron Pickles, a young husband, and father who takes an insurance salesman job while he waits to be admitted to the Electrician’s Union training program.
Pickles’ sales territory (called a “ledger”) is on the near south side of Chicago. The story is set in the early 80’s when Cabrini Green, as well as the Robert Taylor homes and other housing projects, dominated the landscape of Chicago’s south shore. These were not places that anyone wanted to visit after dark as they were overrun and controlled by gangs while drugs, prostitution, and other assorted urban pitfalls thrived under their leadership. They were also predominantly (possibly completely) occupied by African Americans, which made Mr. Pickles – a blonde, blue-eyed white boy in a suit – stand out like a beacon in the night.
Mr. Allen teaches us all about how “burial insurance” was sold (and collected) door to door by these brave “‘shurance” men. Allen imbues Pickles with both humor and compassion as he deals with his customers, his colleagues, and his family. Pickles becomes your buddy, and you genuinely want him to get that union letter and get out of the insurance sales business.
I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so I’m going to stop now with the highlights of the story. This self-published book is entertaining and had almost no typos or grammatical errors. Mr. Allen falls prey to an overuse of metaphor and has a tendency to over-describe a scene, but this is nothing that diminishes the flow of his story and should be rectified as he works on his craft and his second book
There is enough humor here to make this book a perfect beach or vacation read. You will learn about the insurance business first-hand and see what living on Chicago’s south side was like in the early ‘80s along with your laughs. I highly recommend that you pick this up or order it for your e-reader and give it, and D.G. Allen, a try. I think there is something for everyone here.