RARA-AVIS: Read Recently - Lantigua, Stark, Pelecanos.

From: M Blumenthal ( blumenidiot@21stcentury.net)
Date: 20 Jan 2002

HEAT LIGHTNING This an Edgar nominee in 1987. According to a blurb in the back of the book, the author, John Lantigua, is of Cuban an Puerto Rican descent living in Managua. Its protagonist is named David Cruz, a Chicano homicide detective in San Francisco investigating the murder of a you girl who recently fled the civil war in her native El Salvador to the safety of the U.S. Cruz has lost his wife because his experiences as a cop have led him to reject love.

The book has the civil war in El Salvador extended to the US with both those who were aliled with the guerrillas and those with the military responsible for death squads. There are several chapters written from the point of view of a guirrilla, Erik Hernandez who is the chief suspect for the murder which show a totally different viewpoint from those who had been in the US for many years.

 From what I can determine Lantigua has kept writing in the field, but has not written more about Cruz. The plot is not simple and the characters believable and interesting. I'll be looking for more Lantigua books.

FIREBREAK - "When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man." A first line that ranks with the best in a series noted for its first lines.. I think it is easily the best of the recent Parker. books. It is stripped down like those early in the series. The first half is very like The Hunter, aka Point Blank, aka Payback. Later, characters from The Sour Lemon Score are brought back. I think Stark/Westlake handles this right. Even though that book was written in 1969, there is no reference to dates, ages or amount of time passed. l think Robert Parker would do better if he took the same approach in his Spenser series instead of reminding us how old Spenser actually is. The finishishing caper is among the better ones in the series.

BIG BLOWDOWN - am slowly working through the Pelecanos books. With
'Blowdown' I have read all the DC quartet. My first, King Suckerman, I didn't like. The many musical references, which I didn't know for the most part, bothered me. I didn't like the addition of characters whose stories seemed more than a distraction than adding to the scope of the book. I persevered and read The Sweet Forever and Shame the Devil. I thought both were very good.

Though on the whole I liked it, I was a little disappointed in The Big Blowdown. It's the first of the quartet in which I knew virtually all the music references.There was no suspense for me because I've read of Pete' Karras' fate in other books by George. That's my fault, but I do think some of the motivation is unlikely, if not for Pete, certainly for Joey. It's a period I know well, maybe too well. It seems too derivative,. reminding me of one of the Warner's Jimmy Cagney movies, say The Roaring Twenties. In the books I really liked I didn't have as much idea of how appropriate the many references are.

SPOILER: Here are some Some quibbles which may only make sense to someone someone who has read the book:

 The scene where Junior Oliver talks about the new jazz artists reminded me of the scene in Back to the Future when Michael J Fox plays guitar and sings Johnny B Goode in the style of Chuck Berry and tells the crowd something like "You're gonna hear things like that." and a band member calls his cousin Chuck Berry to listen to it. I thought it was hokey in that, and I think the scene in Blowdown is almost as bad. It seems just added on gratuitously.
. I noticed an anachronism. in the climax Pete tells Burke "I'd say they're on the interstate right about now." This was 1949. Eisenhower signed the bill setting up the interstate system some time after 1952. I also thought it unlikely that Reed would mention Harold Russell when insulting Karras. This is three years after Best Years of Our Lives. I really doubt somebody like Reed would remember the actor's name. Mark

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