From: Al Guthrie ( allanguthrie@ukonline.co.uk)
Date: 12 Jan 2003

Jolted out of my post-Yuletide lethargy by reading this remarkable piece of noir...

Ed McBain's GUNS (1976) tells the story of small-time crook, Colley Donato, as he runs from the police after a bungled robbery results in a bloodbath. Colley, a sort of coping psychopath, wouldn't be out of place in a Jim Thompson novel. He finds it hard to form relationships, even harder to keep them, has a propensity for violence and a love of guns. He first shot a guy at the age of sixteen. He hates hot weather, cops, prison, blacks, gays. He isn't too fond of most of his so-called friends. He is terrified of women, fascinated by the size of his accomplice's penis. He almost sleeps with a black whore. He's in denial about more than his sexuality. He tells lies and believes them. His ego is such that he believes he can escape, even with half of New York's police force after him. Any other scenario would be an outrage. Literally unthinkable.

A fascinating insight into the mind of a self-destructive psychopath. I loved the fact that McBain's voice is absent. It's Colley's story, told by Colley, in Colley's words. I loved the fact that Colley is an unsympathetic protagonist. Colley deserves to die. There's no question. And Colley knows it. The whole book is a long suicide. From the outset, he's aware that the robbery will be disastrous and tries to postpone it. During the robbery his actions are unprovoked, unnecessary, and inevitably going to lead to one conclusion. Thereafter, he takes ridiculous chances on several occasions. As I was reading the book, I found myself rooting for justice, not Colley. Restrospectively, I'm not sure there's a difference.

I've only read one other McBain standalone (under the McBain pseudonym - I've read a few Hunters and Marstens). DOWNTOWN. It was also excellent.


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