Re: RARA-AVIS: Ken Bruen

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 04 Sep 2001

I can't argue with a word Richard said about Ken Bruen's White Arrest
(although Irvine Welsh's Filth, -- which I may finish one day, sure I will -- seems far more guilty of inventing a nasty cop just to do it). However, I like the series for pretty much those very same reasons. The other two books in the series are a bit less referential, but if you didn't like the first, you certainly wouldn't like those, either.

I wouldn't even try to compare them to a Pelecanos novel, though. To me they have very little in common. As you noted, Pelecanos's work is rooted in (heightened) realism. Bruen's White Trilogy (though not his other crime novels) are absurdist comedy; they have little or nothing to do with realism. It's the difference between a Peckinpah film and one by Richard Lester or starring Peter Sellers, a nasty Peter Sellers
(actually, I could see Mr Madonna, Guy Ritchie directing it). They are so different there's really no means of comparison.

I couldn't help comparing the series to Ellroy, if Ellroy were British, a lot funnier and cut his books by three quarters. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Bruen started out with the idea of doing a Brit parody of Ellroy. I found myself laughing out loud at both what was going on and at the way it was written.

I'm curious what you would think of Bruen's earlier crime novels, though. They are a lot more traditional, especially Rilke on Black which essentially relocates a Thompson novel in the UK, with the attendant adjustments that would require.

My favorite of his books is The Hackman Blues about a manic-depressive heavy who regulates his self-medication by how nasty he thinks he may need to be at any given time.


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