Read even the first few pages of this debut novel by New York writer Ben Lieberman and then try to believe that this is his first novel! ODD JOBS is a quirky, entertaining, at times edge of the seat novel that is most impressive in the quality of writing that Lieberman demonstrates. He is always in the moment of the story, has created enough of a history for each of his carefully drawn characters that benefit the credibility of each of them when the asides happen, and most of all he understands architecture of knowing when to begin and end chapters that makes them like the connected cars on a moving train, a train so fast moving that the reader dares not jump off for relief. Yes, he really is that fine a writer.
The story involves a college kid, Kevin Davenport, who despite his attraction to drinking it up with the guys, is dedicated to paying his way through college: his father and sister were the victims of a hit and run accident, his mother is so depressed she cannot assist him, so Kevin must go on his own. He lands in a good paying job - hauling beef carcasses and other odious jobs at the Kosher World Meat factory - but has to prove himself (and opt for more income) by becoming the fighter for the factory. Once accepted by the workers and by the manager of the factory, Kevin climbs his way into the machinations of the truly illegal situation that entails not only the men of the Kosher World Meat Factory but the sidelines of crime involving men who he discovers are privy to the details of the accident of his father and sister. And from that point on he endures life threatening situations, uses his brain, and is driven by revenge on the order of a comic book hero.
Though stories of his type flood the screens of the movie theaters and the pulp fiction books one the stands at airports, few can compare tot he way Lieberman uses this action plot as a launching pad for his debut of his writing skills. Actually, Lieberman is better than this story: it feels as though he needed an entry into a well-loved terror drama format to get his feet wet. Unfortunately, the title ODD JOBS is followed by the designator 'A Kevin Davenport Novel' - and that usually means that the focus of his creativity will be devoted to 'the further adventures of' type books. And unfortunately he elected to have applauding quotes from James Patterson and Donald Trump on the cover of this edition. In reality, Ben Lieberman doesn't need gimmicks to launch his career - he is simply a very fine writer who doesn't need popular crutches to assist his potential as one of the rising American talents in literature. But all of this may have been publisher/editorial advice to sell this first book, and maybe they are right: endorsements and popular story tastes do a novel sell. But this reader would rate the story 4 and the skills of Ben Lieberman 5, and hope that he will branch out and rise to his potential. In that way Ben Lieberman (AKA Kevin Davenport) could make the best of the gifts given him. Grady Harp, August 11