RARA-AVIS: Fast Lane

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 20 Sep 2007

Reading this week has been a tag team affair between Zeltserman's Fast Lane and Vollman's Butterfly Stories. By shear force of the story alone, it was an unfair match. Fast Lane won.

Like Goodis, Zeltserman can bring a minor character to life in a few precise sentences. Like James Ellroy, he can smoothly crank up the tension as the story progresses. You can feel them sweat. Probably the most striking parallel is with the works of Jim Thompson. Like Thompson, Zeltserman excels at invoking an almost hypnotic fascination with a character's hand basket ride into his own private hell.

One thing worth mentioning is the juxtaposition of humor and horror. Without some sort of relief, a noir work risks losing the reader by drowning in its own morbid ooze. Woolrich's I Married a Dead Man is a good example. Dark humor is the writer's preferred choice of relief. Willeford understood this. Same with Al Guthrie and Vicki Hendricks. But the technique is not risk-free. Humor can negate the desperation of the noir condition and turn reader empathy to apathy. What it takes is a graveyard, irony-dripping humor that complements the text rather than contradicting it. In this arena, Zeltserman is a master. He has not only read Jim Thompson. He has improved on him. Thompson's Pop. 1280 is almost always in danger of devolving into a farcical joke. Fast Lane avoids this with a wicked humor integrated perfectly into the increasingly dark world of Johnny Lane.


____________________________________________________________________________________ Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your story. Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games. http://sims.yahoo.com/

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