Scott Frank’s ‘Shaker’ Is A Study In Good And Evil [REVIEW]

Shaker Cast

Everyone’s life hangs in the balance In Scott Frank’s SHAKER. (Photos by Joel Bedford/David Robert Bliwas/Joe Szilagyi/Eva Rinaldi, Flickr)

Scott Frank’s debut novel, Shaker, delivers an insightful, unflinching look at violence in America and its effects on our youth. 

The novel begins after a massive earthquake and numerous aftershocks devastate much of Los Angeles County. That’s when killer-for-hire Roy Cooper is sent to town to take care of some wetwork, only to take on more than he bargained for.

Shortly after completing the job, Roy encounters Science and his group of aspiring gang bangers who kill a prominent citizen and turn the assassin into an accidental hero when a video of the incident is uploaded to YouTube.

Scott Frank's Shaker


Officer Kelly Maguire spent years trying to help gangland kids choose a better life, only to be labeled as another racist cop by the media. When she’s drawn into this case to hunt down Science and his crew, she gets the sneaking suspicion that there’s more to the story than first meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Mayor Miguel Santiago is the playboy politician who is more concerned about his own ego than running an efficient office and city.

Frank masterfully utilizes all his characters to draw back the curtain and reveal American crime in all its chilling, sordid glory. He reminds us that evil doesn’t always wear a menacing face. It isn’t born, but crafted by circumstance and influence.

One of the things I loved most about this book is that Frank uses flashback scenes like terrifying funhouse mirrors, letting us initially view each character’s reality as we want to see it, only to bend the light until the horrifying truth is impossible to ignore.

Frank does this effectively when he takes us into both Roy and Science’s past, introducing us to their families, and to the peers who deliver both redemption and ultimately annihilation.

Replete with extremely flawed characters, tight pacing and a final showdown that will have readers biting their nails, Shaker is ultimately a lesson in duality that elicits visceral, vacillating emotions that range from sympathy to disgust.

But that is exactly what is so special about this book. Here, Frank reminds each of us that all our lives could easily spiral out of control, given the right circumstances. We’re all just coins spinning madly on our sides, awaiting gravity to determine if we are good or evil.

Brutally honest but compulsively readable, Shaker is both a breathtaking thriller and a thoughtful parable for our time. Don’t miss it.

Scott Frank

Scott Frank
(Photo by Gabriela Herman)


Scott Frank began his career writing such films as Little Man Tate and Dead Again. His screenplay adaptation for Get Shorty was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a Writers Guild Award for adapted screenplay.

Frank’s adaptation Out of Sight received an Academy Award nomination and won a Writers Guild Award. Frank has also written the screenplays for Heaven’s Prisoners, Minority Report, The Interpreter, Marley & Me, and The Wolverine. 

He wrote and made his directorial debut in 2007 with The Lookout, which won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Most recently, Frank adapted and directed A Walk Among the Tombstones. Shaker is his first novel.

By Scott Frank
352 pgs. Knopf. $26.95.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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