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Literature / Down and Dirty

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Tor Books re-release cover spotlighting Bagabond and her two familiars Black and Calico

Down and Dirty is the fifth book in the Wild Cards anthology series, set in the same shared universe as the other Wild Cards novels and collections. It was edited by George R. R. Martin.

The stories in this volume tell of the events of two outbreaks: an outbreak of gang violence between The Mafia and the Shadow Fists gangs controlled by Kien Phuc, a war which soon spills out of control into the streets of New York. Against this backdrop, the second outbreak occurs; the outbreak of a new, mutant strain of Wild Card virus, courtesy of the ever-shifting powers of The Sleeper, "Typhoid Croyd" Crenson. This version is different in that it can overwrite the original strain, so even Aces and Jokers are not safe.

The stories that make up this book are:

  • Only the Dead Know Jokertown: Yeoman infiltrates the Shadow Fists just as the gang war heats up. The first real story in the book, and the last story in the book.
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  • All the King's Horses: A recurring story that sees the Turtle retire and try to sell his old cars.
  • Concerto for Siren and Serotonin: A recurring story that sees The Sleeper investigating for the mob and unwittingly spreading chaos.
  • Breakdown: Bagabond and Sewer Jack are dragged into the gang war by mutual friend, Rosemary Muldoon.
  • Jesus was an Ace: Reverend Leo Barnett saves the life of a Joker.
  • Blood Ties: A recurring story that sees Dr. Tachyon try to balance helping Jokertown defend against the encroaching gang war, finding the source of the new Wild Card virus, and raising his delinquent grandson Blaise.
  • The Second Coming of Buddy Holly: An AIDS-Wild Card awareness concert in Jokertown put on by Cordelia has dramatic implications for everyone, most of all its star performer Buddy Holly.
  • The Hue of a Mind: Misha, Polyakov, and Gimli team up to take out Senator Hartmann.
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  • Addicted to Love: Water Lily becomes a victim of Ti Malice.
  • Takedown: Rosemary's allies turn on her as the war goes against the mob.
  • Mortality: Modular Man must conquer his fear of death to capture The Sleeper and his dangerous new ally.
  • What Rough Beast...: Rosemary makes a run for it.

This book contains the following tropes:

  • Author Appeal: It's very obvious that the author of "The Second Coming of Buddy Holly" Edward Bryant is a big Buddy Holly fan, since so much of the story is spent talking about how great and influential he is and how many musicians were inspired by him.
  • Back for the Finale: Yeoman stars in his story at the beginning of the book, then disappears for the rest of the book until he shows up at the climax of Tachyon's story.
  • Body Horror: The half-man/half-crocodile mash up Jack turns into when he falls into a coma.
  • Book-Ends: The "Only the Dead Know Jokertown" story book ends the rest of the book.
  • Blessed With Suck: Water Lily gets a new Ace power that cures the Wild Card virus by sleeping with the victim. Too bad this makes her the single most wanted person in New York.
  • Break the Cutie: Water Lily, again. Poor girl is destroyed by her addiction to Ti Malice.
  • Convenient Coma: Jack is left in a coma at the end of his story, and stays that way for the rest of the book, where his friends say he is making a recovery.
  • Cursed With Awesome: The Snotman becomes an Ace, which indebts him to the Sleeper, but that's still an improvement over his former life as a Joker.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Croyd finally gets his own story after his origin story. Since he's the one unintentionally spreading the Wild Card virus he's technically the main villain too.
  • Double Think: Misha will admit that her worship of her brother is based on country wide social conditioning instead of a divine legitimate reason, but still believes the Syria's country wide social conditioning that jokers are cursed by Allah.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Her: Roulette shows up just to show Tachyon the Wild Card virus mutation affects aces, and die.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Misha's group versus Senator Hartmann.
  • Healing Hands: Leo Barnett thinks he has this ability. In fact, he doesn't.
  • Hypocrite: Leo Barnett is introduced having sex with one of his congregation.
  • Jumped Off The Slippery Slope: Rosemary Muldoon.
  • Left Hanging: At the end Jack is still in a coma, Water Lily is still in hiding, and Ti Malice is still at large and tormenting Hiram (and Water Lily hasn't told anyone).
  • The Mafia: Plays a major role in the book. Specifically, it gets its butt kicked.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The Hooker with a Heart of Gold Belinda May that Leo Barnett hires is like this, reassuring him about his impotence and taking him to dinner and being oh so peppy.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted. Buddy Holly is a washed up bum who loses the rights to his music rights and ends up covering Prince in Holiday Inns. By the end of the novel, he's made a bunch of new material and become a shaman ace.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: This book finally cements Rosemary as only a Mafia Don as she drops her alleged plans to clean up the group while being a district attorney.
  • Psycho for Hire: The Sleeper, unusually, gets this role.
  • Rape as Drama: Water Lily must now live with this threat for the rest of her natural life, now that sex with her cures the Wild Card virus, including Joker status.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Yeoman and Wraith become a couple.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Sleeper stays awake way too long and becomes extremely paranoid. When Dr. Tachyon starts looking for him he runs and fights off other Jokers instead of hearing him out.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: Jack is rendered comatose by the AIDS virus, which has eroded his control over his form, leaving him stuck halfway into his crocodile form. However, the AIDS virus has no effect on a crocodile, so he may survive.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: The other half of the gang war. They win the gang war in the end.
  • Typhoid Mary: Croyd is the one responsible for spreading the new strain of the Wild Card virus due to his own ever changing mutation. He is never aware of this.
  • Villain Team-Up: Gimli, a militant activist, Misha, a terrorist, and Polyakov, a KGB agent, all work together to stop Senator Hartmann. It's impressive they get as far as they do, given how radically opposed their normal ideologies are.

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