RARA-AVIS: Bill Moody

From: WordRunner@aol.com
Date: 14 May 2002

    I've been reading the Bill Moody, Evan Horne, books this month, (There are now 5 of them.) and have been struck by the way in which Moody has chosen to write about an essentially hard-boiled world in what is a decidedly soft-boiled way. I love his characters, the atmosphere he creates, and the real life feel of these jazzworld novels, but I often walk away from them feeling as though I'm dealing with a talented boxer who continuously and purposely pulls his punches.
    Moody's jazz piano player detective lives out his life in jazz clubs and bars, cheap hotels and greasy spoons. He runs afoul of Mafia bad guys and no-conscience killers, and he gets pushed around, beat up, and threatened with regularity. In the best tradition of the PI novel, Horne is a man who, once engaged in a quest, cannot let go until he has "seen it through," and the "mysteries" he unravels are often sins of the past which no one wants to see reexamined. The mood of the books is frequently melancholy and Horne's prospects, both musical and investigative, sometimes seem bleak.
    Nevertheless, sexual encounters are handled as though the Hayes Commission was vetting the stories, and almost all of the serious violence happens offstage. It's as though Moody wants to capture hard-boiled and noirish lives and deaths in a semi-cozy manner. He deals with people Hammett and Chandler would recognize, but he usually shields his reader from viewing either the passion or the blood of these people's lives. If he could get a transfusion from George P. Pelecanos, his books would be magnificent.
    I've spent enough days living in the world that Moody explores that when he takes me onto a saloon stage where an after hours quartet is smoking their way through one or another jazz classic, I can smell the cigarette smoke and feel the power of the music. I get all of the juice, the "this is an extraordinary moment" rush, that a listener or a player gets when you are there and it is happening. That's why I read Bill Moody, but I wish he would carry over the "realness" of his musical writing into the tale he has chosen to tell.
    Has anyone else had this same feeling about his work? Does anyone have another take on it?

                                    Jim Blue

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