Michael P. Hartnett-Author

Don’t Get Mad . . . by John Vocale is a terrifically clever and entertaining novel that I enjoyed right from its opening to its surprising and disarming ending. Sturgis, the main character, has been terribly mistreated by Mike DiMarco, one of the more miserable specimens of humanity ever to crawl across the pages of a novel. With his bizarre circular mouth and his foul turns of phrase, DiMarco manages to be a constant source of humor even as his proceeds to commit one heinous act after another. The central focus of the plot of Don’t Get Mad comes from Sturgis’s plan to assassinate DiMarco. The frame of Sturgis’s planning out the murder of Mike DiMarco becomes engagingly fleshed out with funny, vivid stories from Sturgis’s past.
Sturgis is likeable, world-weary, and charming in a self-deprecating way; the reader’s awareness of how completely out of his element he is as a hit-man provides an additional layer of amusing dread (the scene where Sturgis buys the gun is a hoot). Vocale has a fine ear for dialogue and an engaging writing style – Sturgis’s banter with his best friend Paul is a constant source of amusement. A handsome chick magnet, Paul is troubled by addictions yet simultaneously seems well adjusted in his sense of self-awareness (“Then reality set in that the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life had made me an idiot, once again”).
Indeed, all of Vocale’s secondary characters are distinctive. Describing the proclivities of Melissa (one of Sturgis’s ill-fated romantic interests), Vocale notes she requires the dishwasher stacking just so: “All coffee cups had to be on the outside row of the top shelf with the stem points in.” The coy, older seductress Maureen becomes increasingly attractive to the reader as she engages in her conflicted, vulnerable romantic intrigue with Sturgis.
Vocale skillfully bounds along in time in place constantly amusing and intriguing the reader with a narrative that manages to propel forward even when it heads sideways. The book even subtly develops a few shrewd Trump allegories. I highly recommend Don’t Get Mad and look forward to reading further works by this wise and gifted writer.