By Melissa Scrivner-Love
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
It's seeming more and more these days that a published genre novel is the new spec script in Hollywood, when it comes to those trying to get staff writing jobs on so-called "prestige TV" shows; and Melissa Scrivner Love's Lola is a perfect example of this, a book that feels for its entire running length like I'm reading a proposal for a new series to debut on FX this coming fall, which I was going to say is not necessarily either a good or bad thing, but might be better classified as both a good and bad thing. And indeed, Love is exactly in the kind of position in real life you would expect from someone who's written a book like this -- the holder of a Master's in English from NYU, and already a working screenwriter in Los Angeles for such mid-tier shows as CSI: Miami and Person of Interest, Lola is an attempt to branch out into edgier material with a more sweeping scope, the story of a low-level Hispanic gang in LA slowly making their way up the ladder of power, but with the twist being that the gang is secretly led by an intelligent, ruthless twentysomething woman, a fact hidden from public view since the male-dominated world of drug-dealing gangs would never accept her as a valid threat.
The book itself, then, reads exactly like you would expect a 13-episode season 1 of such a show to proceed: Lola is given an opportunity to move up a rung within her cartel's organization, but only through a convoluted caper that takes multiple chapters to plan and execute; along the way, she finds herself as a reluctant caregiver to an adorable five-year-old girl in the neighborhood, whose mother is a drug addict who has started pimping the girl out for heroin; this then calls into question the relationship Lola has with her current boyfriend, the one posing in public as the gang's leader but whose roles are reversed once their door is closed at night; and eventually Lola stumbles into an ever-growing conspiracy involving the LAPD, crooked staff members of the district attorneys office, terrorist-funded international drug trafficking, and a surprising kingpin straight out of Breaking Bad central casting. It's not bad at all, and those who are heavy daily readers of crime thrillers will readily acknowledge this as higher than the average supermarket pulp; but it's nonetheless a supermarket pulp, even if a particularly well-done one, making it of only limited interest to those who aren't heavy fans of this genre. A story that'd be great if you were half-watching it on cable for an hour while checking Facebook, that becomes a more daunting proposition when you have to sit and read it over a series of days with your full concentration, with my recommendation of it today existing on a sliding scale, depending on how much you're naturally into these kinds of stories or not.
Out of 10: 8.0, or 8.5 for fans of plot-intensive stories, or 9.0 for fans of crime thrillers