RARA-AVIS: Block, Mankell, Prather, Westlake, Willeford, Woolrich

From: K Montin ( kmontin@total.net)
Date: 08 May 2001

Just got through Hit List, by Lawrence Block. It was all right, but not great. The light banter between Keller and Dot was fun, although a little strained at times. Keller definitely has a workmanlike attitude towards his job. He has no trouble doing a hit while on his weekend off from jury duty in a case of a stolen VCR. I remember reading a few of the Burglar books years ago. I should give some of this other series a go.

I got hold of Sidetracked, by Henning Mankell, which I thought was very good. One of the themes is the trafficking of women from developing countries in Western Europe. Just last week in Toronto there was a similar case, not of murder, but of trafficking of unwitting young women. The Sweden found in police novels -- the gaps between rich and poor, the political corruption, and all that sort of stuff -- is different from the Sweden of my family's reminiscences.

I read one Richard Prather novel, The Amber Effect. The plot was science fiction, and the feel was very sixties. The central female character was Miss Nude Somewhere-or-Other. It was his first Shell Scott in twenty years or so. I think Prather picked up where he left off before. Entertaining, but not fantastic.

In December I read Donald Westlake's What's the Worst That Could Happen?, a Dortmunder caper that I quite enjoyed. Right afterward, I saw a "Coming Soon" poster for the movie, starring Danny De Vito and I forget who else.

I also read three by Charles Willeford. I'd read Miami Vice years ago, and really liked it. But you know how it is, sometimes you forget the author's name. Saw the video and liked it. In my view Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh were excellent in their parts. I couldn't say how faithful the adaptation was. Anyway, with Rara Avis urging me on, I rediscovered Charles Willeford and am very glad I did. Interesting characters, great plots, excellent sense of humour … What more could you want? I've got my library on red alert for the Shark-Infested Custard, which is supposed to be on the shelf, but is probably missing in action.

I recently read Nightmare, a collection of stories by Cornell Woolrich. Strong atmosphere, interesting plot twists. A little old-fashioned perhaps, but they have aged pretty well.

Karin Montin

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