RARA-AVIS: Recent reads

From: Doug Bassett ( dj_bassett@yahoo.com)
Date: 27 Mar 2005

I haven't posted in a good long while, but I'm not dead yet. :) What I've been reading

-- I've been rereading a bunch of Edward Aarons Sam Durrell "Assignments", hopefully for an article for Mystery*File one of these days. For now, I'll say that while the Durrells obviously have their peaks and valleys, in general I think this is a very solid series, with the best installments rather more sophisticated in their outlook and narrative structure than you might think. A free one: one of the best Durrells, I think, is ASSIGNMENT: SORRENTO SIREN.

-- A.A. Fair, FISH OR CUT BAIT. I've come slowly to the conclusion that Erle Stanley Gardner is the great underrated writer of American mystery fiction: I've never read any Perry Mason which was less than readable, and the Fairs are absolutely fantastic. Among other things, I suspect they're rather more realistic than most PI books, with a kind of grimy, gritty, sordid reality that you don't often find in the genre (most of the Cool/Lam cases are set-ups of one sort or another; there's the constant grubbing about for the next check; etc.)

-- Max Allan Collins, TWO FOR THE ROAD. I've bought all the Hardcase crime books, mainly because I think it's an important imprint that deserves support. This reprint, though, while an attractive item, is not that good of a read (reprint of BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY), very basic thieves double-crossing other thieves schtik, very undistinguished. I'm not a fan of Collins generally, though, you may want to adjust your dial upward for that.

Not that I'm blaming HardCase for reprinting them, I understand Collins's draw as a name.

-- I have lurked here on and off and am puzzled by all the love shown Dominic Stansberry's THE CONFESSION, a rather dull, programmatic noir that seems written to schematics: an unappealing psychiatrist implicated in murders recounts his "confession". Much is made, according to my notes, of the illusion of personal identity, which is far too intellectual a conceit to really ground and groove a narrative behind.

-- Richard Aleas's LITTLE GIRL LOST is rather better, though it's a very traditional Chandleresque novel that seems fresh only in the sense that few are doing this sort of thing nowadays. The novel is structured toward the ending, which I did think was excellent.

-- Warren Murphy's DIGGER #1: SMOKED OUT is a book I'm glad to have only because it's not that easy to find any more: the story itself is sub-par Fletch stuff. Murphy was funnier with the Destroyer.

I've been reading an awful lot of crime fiction, but little straight forward hardboiled stuff: the bulk of it's been spy fiction of one sort or another.


Doug Bassett dj_bassett@yahoo.com

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