From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 23 Jan 2003

Ever been to a drag race?

A low slung racer stripped to the bone rolls up to the line. The sound it makes isn't the high-pitched hum of a Porsche; it's a slow, uneven rumble. With the spark advanced so far that it's bucking against itself, the dragster sits there and shakes. It's an awful, powerful, fearsome sound, full of savage anger and the promise of death. A light descends a pole and there's goosebumps on your forearms and hair raised on the back of your neck and you hold your breath and the light hits the bottom and the massive engine jerks sideways from the torque and fire belches from the straight-out exhaust stacks and the huge back tires smoke blue and gray and the front wheels come off the ground and the dragster lurchs forward.

Al Guthrie's KISS HER GOODBYE is like a drag race in print. From the first page it rumbles dangerously, and the tension builds with each page. In this fast-paced novel Guthrie tells the story of a group of psychopathic criminals terrorizing Edinburgh with a series of daring daytime robberies, shooting first and collecting the money later. The police are clueless, but the psychos push the wrong buttons, and now a powerful and deadly avenging angel stalks them.

Guthrie's writing is lean and his characters mean, but he maintains a sense of compassion which avoids the pitfall of universal toughness that so often robs a hardboiled novel of both its humanity and its credibility. Guthrie's got soul, and so do his characters. He makes you give a damn. Along with a wicked cast of characters and a steamrolling plot, Guthrie's dialogue is high-octane, precise, and believable. Guthrie, like Hemingway, is a master at revealing his characters through subtle nuances in their dialogue. What remains unsaid is as important as what is said.

The world of noir is eternally dark and depressing, but through some of the finest runs a grim thread of humor. In such harsh conditions humor lends a sense of perspective, a sad, worldly smile at this mess we call the human condition. Without a sense of humor noir can lean towards a morose morbidity bordering on dreary melodrama. Charles Willeford understood this. So did Derek Raymond. And so does Al Guthrie. In the bleakest situation, Guthrie can always find humor, and this adds a balance to the novel that is elegant and refreshing.

Although Guthrie sticks close to the plot, there are short, deeply felt sections that evoke the setting of Edinburgh and the people.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 23 Jan 2003 EST