Writers to read: Chuck Hogan

Chuck Hogan is one of those writers whose fame is slowly growing but whose name might draw a blank stare even from avid readers of crime novels and thrillers.

Chuck who?

Hogan co-wrote, with Guillermo Del Toro, the trilogy of end-of-the-world books that began with “The Strain.”

He also wrote the gritty thriller “Prince of Thieves,” the story the Ben Affleck/Jeremy Renner thriller “The Town” was based on.

Oh, that Chuck Hogan.

I’ve been making my way through Hogan’s novels, in no particular order. As proof of that, I’ve just finished his first book, “The Standoff,” published in 1994.

The downbeat story of a deeply troubled FBI hostage negotiator, the sheriff of a small Montana county and a black federal agent, all of whom are thrown into a dangerous situation thanks to a standoff with a white supremacist holed up, along with family members, in a small mountain cabin.

When a local judge mistakenly orders an eviction notice be served on the mountain man — who has a good supply of guns to back up his racist, government-hating paranoia — dominos begin falling. Shots are fired, reinforcements are called in and the people of a nearby town start taking sides. Unfortunately, they take the side of the racist cabin-dweller.

Hogan throws a few twists into the story, but the book is a straightforward and ultimately dark thriller.

The story is interesting in part because of the time in which it was published. The federal standoffs at Waco and Ruby Ridge had occurred but the Oklahoma City bombing had not. Mention of the World Trade Center — the scene of an earlier, traumatic hostage situation that left troubled agent John Banish literally and figuratively scarred — seem eerie.

Hogan isn’t a showy writer. The “Strain” trilogy with its end-of-the-world theatrics isn’t typical of his work.

With that series complete, I’m hoping that Hogan gets back to the mean streets and meaner protagonists of his best thrillers.

 

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