RARA-AVIS: Thieves' Market

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 02 Sep 2005

I'm reading this book now, the source for the film Thieves' Highway, and I think it is poetic, exciting and quintessentially hard boiled. The best aspect is the detailed delineation of what a working class male's toughness meant in the mid-20th century: cynicism, anger at the many impediments, a bulldogish tenacity to claw one's way to financial security and self-respect, and the ability to make other men believe that your bragging about sexual exploits can be backed up with action. Also, there is the power of the male bond (part of which is a sense that women are unknowable--they trip up a guy, shame him, and tame him, and then try to "civilize" him, as Huck Finn would say). In Thieves' Market, the protagonist, Nick, is a newcomer to the produce trucking business. His partner and mentor, Ed, is feisty, grasping and nasty (these truck drivers bully and ridicule each other as if their pecking order is re-established every working day). But Ed also cares for Nick almost as a son, saving him from being crushed by his own truck, guiding him to the produce market and suggesting the kind of hard-bitten shrewdness it takes to get established. The "produce shylock," Figlia, is a nemesis of almost mythical proportions. There's definitely a "you can't win" flavor to the book--early on, Bezzerides talks about the American Dream--and what Nick's father's experiences with it were. That's what this book is really about.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 02 Sep 2005 EDT