RARA-AVIS: Recent Reads

From: Chris Martin ( cptpipes@hotmail.com)
Date: 22 Jan 2004

A few recent reads of mine may be of interest to those on the list:

Woe To Live On, Daniel Woodrell: Wow. Woodrell is such a strong writer and his Civil War novel is a great read full of bloodshed, gore and Woodrell's ever present gallows humor. It took me longer than it should have to pick up on what Woodrell was doing w/ dialogue, which reads like outtakes from the King James Bible, but I'm often a bit slow on the uptake and the effect worked very well.

Hell at the Breech, Tom Franklin: Speaking of Woodrell, he praised this debut novel in the Washington Post last fall (thanks, J.Ho!) and it's been on my TBR list ever since. Another violent tale set in the late 1800s, Hell at the Breech covers gang wars in Alabama after the Civil War. Franklin writes good, tough prose with a wicked sense of humor and a plot that really moves.

Bangkok 8 by John Burdette: I really liked this one, which follows Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a Buddhist cop in Thailand as he investigates is partner's murder. Having a Buddhist cop could easily be a silly gimmick, but Burdette's affection for his protagonist makes it work. I was reminded a bit of Lionel Essrog from Motherless Brooklyn as Jitpleecheep explained his religion and culture. I saw a review that referred to Burdette's portrait of Thailand as hallucinogenic, and don't think I can top that for accuracy.

In Midst of Death by Lawrence Block: I thought I'd read all the Scudder novels and short stories and then I stumbled across this one in a used book store. Now I wish there were more that I hadn't read.

The Light of Day by Graham Swift: I was disappointed with this one, which is not at all hard boiled, but is about a private eye. I can't say more without creeping into spoiler territory, so consider yourself warned. It is a first-person narrative of a day in the life of a Wimbledon P.I. I enjoyed this book to a point because the writing and plot structure reminded me a bit of Joan Didion's Latin America novels and a bit of Thomas Cook's mid-90s novels (all books and reread a number of times). Thus, the whole set-up of the book left me expecting a big twist toward the end and there was nothing, just the end of day. I know that that was probably the point, but I was hoping for more.

If anyone else has thoughts on any of the books mentioned above, I'd like to hear them.

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