RARA-AVIS: Quinsigamond

From: Geir Glosvik ( gglosvik@online.no)
Date: 20 May 2004

I finally finished reading the four books by Jack O'Connell about the imagined Massachusetts city of Quinsigamond. Talk about 'dark and sinister'. These books create a world of hopelessness, corruption, violence and despair that's never explicitly stated - it's just there. The main characters - different ones in each book - are trying to cope as best they can. But there's some kind of deteriorating development from Lenore Thomas in 'Box Nine' to Gilrein in 'Word Made Flesh'. Lenore is a tough 'narc' who at least thinks she's in control of things. Hannah Shaw - in 'Wireless' - once had Lenore as her mentor. She's tough like hell, but never thinks she controls anything. Then you get to Sylvia Krafft in 'Skin Palace' who's just one of those girls in numerous crime novels who gets involved in things she doesn't understand. And then Gilrein in 'Word Made Flesh' who's given up when the novel starts. All these protagonists live in the same city of Quinsigamond.

In describing the city, O'Connell's very consistent. The same city in all the books. And all the four books have a different main theme - from drugs/language to radio to film/photo to books/linguistics. But the city is the same.

And the details - the facts. He must have done a hell of a research from book to book. I've tried to check him out, and where it's not fiction, it's correct. But that's the funny thing - you never know when it's fact and it's fiction.

I'm not sure if O'Connell planned it this way from the start. There's an interview with him in 'Crime Time' where he states that after 'Skin Palace', he just planned to write a short, hard-boiled novel a-la Hammett. It just didn't work out that way. I'm not sure I believe him. At the start of the interview, he says 'just don't take anything I say seriously'.

These are the best 'crime novels' I've ever read besides the books by Jim Sallis. I even think those two have got something in common - though I need some more time to figure out what it is.

Regards, Geir Glosvik

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