RARA-AVIS: Recent reading

From: William Denton ( wtd@pobox.com)
Date: 27 Jun 2006

Four tough ones.

John D. MacDonald: CINNAMON SKIN (1982) and THE LONELY SILVER RAIN (1984), the last two Travis McGee books (#20 and #21) and two of the last four novels he wrote. With these, I've finished rereading all of the McGee books in order. I enjoyed almost all of them--a couple were duds or silly--and these close the series well. JDM's almost never let me down.

I'd started and put down a few books where nothing really happened. I don't like books like that. JDM would have the cure, I knew. In CINNAMON SKIN a boat blows up on page one and by page 50 McGee knows who did it and is on the hunt. In THE LONELY SILVER RAIN a boat is stolen and by page 50 McGee has found it, but there are three dead bodies inside, and soon he's the one being hunted. SILVER strains credulity, as do several books in the series, with the way McGee can get people to talk, but I still say JDM is one of the finest craftsmen. I had completely forgotten the surprise at the end of SILVER, and even though there was no final "black book," McGee's ruminations on aging and mortality and the close of this book wrap up the series nicely.

A couple of things about McGee. First, he likes Stephen King. In CINNAMON he's reading a book about a scary dog (CUJO), and in SILVER he's reading a book where a cat comes back to life (PET SEMATARY). I know King greatly admires JDM. Second, in SILVER he records all his LPs onto cassette tapes and then gets rid of the vinyl. Later, relaxing while listening to Eydie Gorme, he congratulates himself on the higher audio quality. That makes no sense. And ... Eydie Gorme? Earlier in the series he dug some Dave Brubeck. Both fit with Mr. Gorman's "a Rotarian's idea of a cool guy."

Richard Stark: THE SEVENTH (first published as THE SPLIT) (1966), the eighth Parker novel. First line: "When he didn't get any answer the second time he knocked, Parker kicked the door in." In the bedroom, Parker's woman has been fixed to the wall with a sword. Donald E. Westlake knows how to tell a crackerjack story too. The book has the standard Parker structure: a third about the heist, which ends in trouble; a third following different characters in the fall-out; and a third where Parker gets out of the jam. If you've ever been disappointed because you spent twenty bucks on a book a friend raved about only to find out it's boring and nothing happens, Richard Stark can cure the problem as well as JDM.

Ken Bruen: A WHITE ARREST, first in the White Trilogy. I have more Bruen on the shelf than I've read, for some reason. What I have read I've blazed through in a white heat, as I expect most people do with Bruen. This one didn't grab me as much, though. It's made up of short, brutal, often funny scenes. Is that enough? Do any of the characters come alive? What is Brant beyond big and drunk and violent? Why do none of the cops seem to do any police work? I'll finish the trilogy, but with a slight suspicion that there's more surface than substance here. I know it's early Bruen, and the later books I've read I really liked.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : www.miskatonic.org : www.frbr.org

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