Re: RARA-AVIS: Private Eyes. What else?

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 02 Mar 2001

Juri wrote:

"I have one Ken Bruen in my shelves and now that you mention him, I'll try to read it."

I like Ken Bruen's work quite a bit. The first of his crime novels (he wrote and edited a couple books before it, I think), Rilke on Black, is essentially a '50s American paperback original made contemporary and set in England. The protagonist is a criminal who is very into American culture, but it doesn't quite translate to his British life. It's good, but Bruen got better, more distinctive and more British after that. Each book gets a little more idiosyncratic.

Her Last Call to Louis MacNeice is about a UK bankrobber with several legit busineses on the side, a character straight out of Ted Lewis, who picks up a psycho femme fatale who begins stalking him. His life begins to unravel.

The Hackman Blues is probably my favorite of his, about a manic-depressive heavy whose efficiency and ability to think clearly, obey orders and rein in his violence is directly tied to whether or not he has decided to take his medication that day.

Finally, there is his White Trilogy, the third of which is due to be available in the US next month. These are quite odd police procedurals. The main character is totally corrupt on a basic level (expects everything to be free, food, housing, sex, etc, and bullies people into giving him these things; blackmails his partner's wife), but is still offended by crime and is seeking that "White Arrest" which will make him such a golden boy that no one could even think of firing him, even if all of the other stuff comes out. His partner and boss is beginning a meltdown as his marriage goes to hell. The other cops are equally screwed up. And somehow, they manage to solve some crimes, mostly by luck. The writing style in the two of this trilogy I've read is as distinctive in its own way as Ellroy's White Jazz voice. As with Whtie Jazz, I've had to read much, if not all, of these books more than once, but it wasn't a chore or due to bad writing, more due to getting caught up in the pace and rhythm and rushing ahead too fast to grasp everything that's going on.


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