Friday, June 08, 2012


Recently BABY SHARK was offered as a free read via Kindle. Having liked the book (and the series) very much I suggested to Barry that he should pick it up and take a look. He did and decided he would review it. Hence, for the first time ever for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott, both Barry and I are reviewing the same book on the same day. Barry’s new review of BABY SHARK is followed by my review originally written a number of years ago when I had all my hair, less weight, and could walk like a normal person….

BABY SHARK (2006) by Robert Fate

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

In 1952, accustomed to accompanying her pool shark father from one Texas poolroom to another where he earns money hustling suckers, seventeen-year-old Kristin Van Dijk doesn't experience violence as a way of life. Not, at least, until a fateful night in Henry Chin's poolroom when a member of the Lost Demons outlaw motorcycle gang shows up wanting revenge for having been hustled by her father. Violence erupts, resulting in multiple deaths that include those of Kristin's father, Henry's son, and one of the biker gang. Kristin is repeatedly raped and beaten by the bikers. When she recovers, having sustained some permanent damage and realizing the police aren't taking the incident seriously, she is determined to hunt down the men responsible for the deaths and her condition. Henry Chin is equally determined.

Kristin gets help from several different experts who put her through a rigorous course of training until she becomes proficient at hand-to-hand combat, the use of firearms, and at shooting pool. Henry hires private detective Otis Millett to locate their quarry, and then he and Kristin go after them. Sometimes Kristin goes alone. Along the way she learns that  people are not always the seemingly respectable folks they present themselves as. 

I read Baby Shark because a considerable number of people at a web group I belong to, one of whom is a close friend, have raved about it.  I enjoyed the book for what it is, a fast-paced, crisply told revenge/coming-of-age tale whose principal characters are decently fleshed-out (though most of the others are just names on the page). But I frankly don't understand the raves. There's nothing startlingly original about the premise, the violence that's vividly depicted, or the characters. Permit me—or forgive me for using—movie references: after being raped and assaulted by "The Wild One," a young woman transforms herself into  "The Karate Kid" and "The Hustler" to "Kill Bill."  

Will I read any of the sequels? Probably, if only to see in what direction the author takes his main characters, and to see how—and if—he develops them further. Mostly, however, Baby Shark hits me the way Mickey Spillane's novels do: as ephemeral mind-candy.

I can't address the paperback edition, but the Kindle edition could use a good proofreader to correct a significant number of punctuation errors.

Barry Ergang ©2012

Barry Ergang has books from his personal collection for sale at He'll contribute 20% of the purchase price of the books to our fund, so please have a look at his lists, which have recently been added to. Some of his written work is available in e-book formats at ( and at Smashwords (

Its October, 1952 as this often violent crime novel opens in Henry Chin's Poolroom situated in West Texas. Seventeen year old Kristin "Baby" Van Dijk is there with her father, a pool hustler. With her mom dead and her aunt living up in Oklahoma, it's pretty much her, her dad, and her dad's Coupe de Ville as they travel Texas with her dad playing pool for money and reading books for fun. That is until members of the "Lost Demons" motorcycle gang walk in.

When it's over, her dad is dead, Henry Chin's son is dead, a couple gang members are dead, and Kristin has been raped repeatedly and brutally beaten. Her jaw is broken, teeth are missing, ribs are cracked, her nose is broken and the list keeps going on and on. She was lucky she lived through it and waking up in the hospital in Abilene makes her almost wish she hadn't. Then she meets Detective Hansard and it is pretty much clear that the case is going to go nowhere. As Henry puts it, "No police justice. Henry knows more ways one skin cat." (Page 20)

Author Robert Fate launches the reader into a revenge tale that is so much more than simple revenge. Kristin who rehabs and follows her dad's career path as a pool hustler quickly earning the name "Baby Shark" is not a stereotypical vigilante. Yes, there are elements of that sort of thing in her character, but as he does with all the characters in this fast moving novel, author Robert Fate shows the other side of her. Revenge, retaliation, payback, call it what you will, it has consequences often in unexpected ways and he grippingly details that side of it for the reader.

In a torturous and violence filled path that goes back and forth across West Texas and reaches into Forth Worth and Dallas, author Robert Fate weaves a complex trail of not only revenge, but duplicity and mystery. While the opening may be cut and dried between the black hats and the white hats, it isn't long before nothing is that simple. The result is a powerful, often violent novel that does actually live up to the media hype.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2012


Earl Staggs said...

As always, I respect Barry's opinions and comments, but I confess I loved BABY SHARK and its sequels. Two reasons for that. First, I enjoy vigilante justice stories and have written a few myself. That stems from my disdain for the lack of justice - not always but in many cases - in the lawyers arena we call our legal system. Second, Fate's writing style awed me. He used a bare minmum of powerful, perfectly selected words to move the stories along at a dramatic fast pace. What a treat not to have to push through artful "writing" but to be pulled through an artfully told story at a breakneck pace.

Warren Bull said...

I'm with Earl on both counts. Barry's opinions are always well thought out and worth reading and I love the series. The writing is clean and spare. The characters caught my attention and kept it throughout.
I look forward to the series continuing.