RARA-AVIS: Dark Angel, John Dale

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 17 Jul 2004

Published in 1995 by Serpent's Tale, DARK ANGEL is John Dale's debut novel. The story revolves around Jack Buturov, a casino bouncer from Sydney with an exwife nagging him for money, a chronically ill son, and now a friend murdered in the street. When his friend's beautiful but damaged sister appears Jack is swept up in a dangerous search for the killer that involves corrupt politicians, organized crime, and crooked cops.

John Dale lays down a dark noir tale, but a number of details kept it from being a great book. With the exception of Buturov, the characters were a little thin. There were so many bad guys that the shift in focus was disconcerting. The narrative moved quickly, but with no surprises, and although I don't see irony as a required element, the story seemed weakened by the lack of it. There were some sections, such as Jack's midnight visit with Angela's father, that struck me as unnecessary. In the end, Dale's style failed to sustain the intensity that the narrative demanded, causing the fear and desperation to exist only on the surface, failing to deliver the bone-deep angst that good noir is famous for.

Although I hardly need to say this, my opinions of the book are subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt. I recently read Jason Starr's TOUGH LUCK, which has been well spoken of here, and I didn't care for it either.

John Dale was born in Sydney and grew up in Tasmania. He returned to Sydney and taught writing, worked as a bouncer and then for the Attorney General's office. After DARK ANGEL came THE DOGS ARE BARKING in 1998, and then HUCKSTEPP A DANGEROUS LIFE. WILD LIFE is a nonfiction exploration of his grandfather's murder, published by Allen and Unwin in 2004.


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