RARA-AVIS: Three books

From: Randy Krbechek ( randyk@psnw.com)
Date: 02 Aug 2007

Greetings from a lurker. Here are my comments on three titles that have drawn several comments on this list, and which I read because I learned of them here.

1. DOGS OF GOD by Pinckney Benedict (1994). Everyone dies, everything turns to cr*p. Good guys, bad guys, sense of moral compass? I don't see it. Overrated, with a wordy style (boy, I hope Mr. Benedict is not on this list!)

I like the economical writers. That is one of the reasons we admire Thompson. Good, bad, or indifferent, Thompson's books move right along. Likewise Goodis. I just finished the Hard Case reprint of THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN by David Goodis. Not on the A-list of Goodis titles, but the prose is efficient. Good sense of place
(Jamaica) also. You can never tell with a Goodis if the protagonist will drive off the cliff or be saved. I appreciate Goodis' moral ambiguity.

2. BODIES ARE DUST by P.J. Wolfson (1931). What an interesting book. I'd never heard of it before. Reminds me of John Dos Pallos, who was similarly experimenting with language and the story-telling style in his U.S.A. trilogy. Like many of the 20's and 30's crime stories, BODIES ARE DUST has an emphasis on action over introspection. But we can clearly see a sense of "why dunnit"
(which, for me and probably many persons on this list, is more important than "who dunnit"). One reviewer said the protagonist turns on his partner, but I had a hard time picking that up. Still, I can see where this title takes a real step in developing the genre. Well worth looking up.

3. THE RED RIGHT HAND by Joel Townsley Rogers (1945). Intriguingly described as a story with "an unreliable narrator." I think the author tried a little too hard to tie the whole story together, and the ending is too cute for me. Even so, the first two-thirds fits right in the genre, as we try to understand/decipher the narrator.

(My copy with part of the "Mystery Library" series published by the University of California in the 1970s. This was volume 10. Anyone know who else was published in the series?)

How did I stumble into this genre? While I was in graduate school, I found a couple of titles published by Mr. Penzler during the 1980s in his "Quill Mysterious Classic" series. The used bookstore had HALO IN BLOOD and NIGHT OF THE JABBERWOCK, and then THE KILLER INSIDE ME. Turned my world upside down. Twenty years later, I'm still hooked.

Many thanks to everyone for their comments and suggestions on different titles. There are some members of this list who really know their literature.

Bye. Randy Krbechek Fresno, CA


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