RARA-AVIS: Recent reading

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 15 Sep 2001

Three by John D. MacDonald:

A KEY TO THE SUITE (1962): I mentioned this before, it's the roof-off look at a business convention where a man's job is on the line. Good stuff, solid crisp JDM work.

DEATH TRAP (1957): An engineer goes back to see a girl he'd done wrong when he reads her genius brother is about to be executed for murder, sets out to clear him, and stirs up a lot of trouble. This one isn't up to JDM's usual standards. There are some unlikely plot turns, a strange bunch of sex- and drug-crazed teenagers, a lot of pop Freudianism, and a sadistic sheriff.

A DEADLY SHADE OF GOLD (1965): The fifth McGee book, and it's a double-length Gold Medal. Frankly, it'd have been better if it was regular length. McGee has more time to muse about women, men, society, and all that, which I certainly don't mind, but the plot ends up being very confusing, moving from an old friend who was involved with some little gold statues to a Mexican resort to anti-Castro Cubans to debauched Hollywood types. I couldn't keep any of it straight by the end. McGee sleeps with four women, is turned down by one, and sees one who could have been his true love be killed in an explosion. Near the end he's knocked on the head, but an hour later he can still carry 300 pounds of stuff although there's a bullet in his side. He's tough.

Two by Mr. Pelecanos:

A FIRING OFFENSE (1992): His first, and the first of the three Nick Stefanos books. It's interesting reading these after the later books and seeing how Nick's life ties in to SHAME THE DEVIL and the others. Mr. Pelecanos is getting better and better, of course, but that's not to say this isn't good.

THE BIG BLOWDOWN (1996): I'd never seen this in a store before, but one day there it was. This is the one about Big Nick Stefanos, the other Nick's grandfather; Pete Karras, Dimitri's father; and a lot of other people in Washington before and after WWII. The only thing I didn't like about it is due to personal taste: I'm not a fan of the use of small chunks of narrative sets years in the past to set up the later events. I like things more continuous. That didn't mean I didn't like the book, though, because it's great. I was delighted by the use of contemporary music and movie references. Mr. Pelecanos uses them in all his books, of course, but I hadn't expected a white guy being put hip to Fletcher Henderson or someone being compared to Laird Cregar. The scope of all these Washington books is really something. It's a top-notch body of work.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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