RARA-AVIS: recent reads

From: DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net
Date: 16 May 2007

miker was recently lamenting that he had been having a bad run of books. I've been having a particularly good on.

The Follower by Jason Starr

Starr could well be the new Highsmith. Not that I've read that much Highsmith (Strangers and the first Ripley), but Starr is very good at writing sociopaths (or is in psychopaths?). This one, set among young, just post-college singles in NY (sometimes bordering on the annoying, but that's more the characters than Starr's depiction of them), revolves around one such sociopath tracking down and insinuating himself into the life of a young woman he knew a long time ago, clearing his path of all obstacles. Plays out with the inevitability of a car crash watched in slow motion.

Mayhem in the Marais by Leo Malet

I really like Malet's Nestor Burma series. This is the fourth or fifth I've read. They're a lot of fun with their slightly exaggerated PI mannerisms. Burma's wisecracking and flirting with his secretary are in the classic mold, but the books' Frenchness gives them a novelty. Somehow, the rampant sexism -- partly due to their being written in the
'50s -- that would come off as nasty and bitter, even judgemental (if they enjoy sex, they must be bad), in a US book of the time, comes off as good natured and playful from this Frenchman; he lcearly loves all women. I must say, though, that, as an American, I found some of the British slang in this UK printing jarring, kept pulling me out of the French setting -- I probably would not have blinked if US slang had been used, whereas it would probably jar a Brit's idea of Frenchness.

Cripple Creek by James Sallis

The second in his John Turner series. Sallis has a great style. It's often elliptical, told in montage, with the reader filling in a lot of things that are not explicitly said. It's also very interesting what is on and off screen in his books. That may make it sound cold, dry, maybe even postmodern, but they're not. They're kind of southern in their style, often going off on tangents, telling other stories that give perspective on the main story. And what great characters. I cannot recommend Sallis enough, this series, the Lew Griffin series and Drive. I've gotta get his other few novels I haven't read.

The Big Boom by Domenic Stansberry

Finished this last night. Dante Mancuso is now a PI in San Francisco, on a missing persons case involving his first love. Stansberry has an amazing style, very evocative, but without calling attention to itself. He's especially good at getting into people's minds and looking at why they do the, often self-destructive, things they do. And how those things resonate through other people's lives. I especially liked how the book acknowledged what could and could not be accomplished by a PI, how far he could get up the food chain in fixing responsibility, and no further.

Next is McCarthy's The Road (can't believe I'm reading an Oprah book), then the Brewer and Goodis Hard Case reprints.


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