Re: RARA-AVIS: Salon article on new noir

Diane Trap (
Wed, 30 Jun 1999 10:14:13 -0400 (EDT)

> More intersting: did some of you ever read Bowman's
> novels? are they as superficial as his critical work?
> E.Borgers

I haven't read any of Bowman's fiction, but a quick search of the book reviews on came up with a review of his first novel, _Let the Dog Drive_. The review connects Bowman's writing and hardboiled detective novels, so I've posted its relevant bits below.

     -----Diane Trap

(Note: This is extremely edited. To see the whole review, go to, go to the Books page, and search the archive for Bowman.)

The Hippo and the Belle of Amherst

Date: February 7, 1993, Sunday, Late Edition - Final Byline: By Tim Sandlin;

LET THE DOG DRIVE By David Bowman. 295 pp. New York: New York University Press. $19.95.

...Bud Salem, an 18-year-old Californian with a mother who is a faith healer and whose father, a former Tarzan stand-in, was killed by a baby hippopotamus in the Tournament of Roses parade. Bud raves and rambles. He rants at life with the unstructured, unrepentant energy of Henry Miller or the early Philip Roth. He sprays the page with a machine-gun fire of images, ideas and allusions, some so apt the reader may put down the book to applaud. Others don't seem to make a lick of sense. In other words, the kid takes risks. Bud is not your generic drowning-in-angst teen-age narrator as cloned by the hundreds since Holden Caulfield first observed life in the pop of a pimple. Bud is an intellectual, a walking cultural data base of literary, movie, music and biblical cross-references. While detective novels of the 1940's are his field of extreme expertise, he is also on familiar ground with Joan Didion, avant-garde photographers and Bible verses dealing with dogs. Imagine Jack Kerouac with an M.F.A.

...Bud's grandfather, Rex Ringer, who wrote 38 private-eye novels between 1943 and given free rein to inject commentary. His advice: "Kid, put the past in the bird cage. . .
. If you don't have the common sense to write a detective story, then shoot down to El Dos Passos or wherever and write a goddamn book about Central America."

After his own fashion, Bud takes his grandfather's advice. He meets the standards for a detective novel -- gallons of alcohol are drunk, a few people are killed, and there's a nifty torture scene that may be unique in the annals of first-person narration -- and mixes it with that Latin American style known as magic realism...Raymond Chandler merges with Gabriel Garcia Marquez....

For the record, the novel does have a plot and characters..."Let the Dog Drive" won the 1992 Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Emerging Writers. The book is fresh, fun and well written, and it deserves this and any other awards that apply to first novels
-- all novels, for that matter. Now that David Bowman has emerged, it will be interesting to see where his surrealistic, hard-boiled, intelligentsia style takes him next.

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