RARA-AVIS: Recent readings: Stark, Pronzini, Thomas, Prather

From: jacquesdebierue (jacquesdebierue@yahoo.com)
Date: 27 Jan 2009

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    Proverbial digging in the box (always fun) turned up hours of pleasurable reading (in this case rereading):

    Richard Prather: The Scrambled Yeggs.

    This Shell Scott novel is dynamite. It would be a great hardboiled story even without Prather's comic gifts, which do enhance it. I believe Prather was incapable of writing a bad sentence. His pitch is perfect. If these novels were aimed at subliterate readers, as has been claimed, well, then subliterate readers were better treated back then than literate ones are treated today. I repeat: as a technical writer, Prather is second to none. As a PI writer, he has to rank high. As a comic hardboiled writer, very high. In this one, Scott is involved in a series of murders that seem to be hit and runs but are much more than that. The story struck me as original.

    Bill Pronzini: Demons.

    I have a weakness for Bill Pronzini's work and I am always willing to read whatever he offers. His colloquial style in the Nameless series is too damn attractive for me to worry too much about analyzing the plot (disappeared femme fatale, several male friends as likely suspects) and picking weaknesses. Nameless looks vulnerable here, far from a superhero role, feeling old and relying on intellect. If you haven't read it, I guarantee you won't be able to put it down.

    Donald Westlake: The Busy Body.

    A great read, as it always was, and another example of comic hardboiled. It's somewhere in between a caper and a tough George Higgins novel of the mob. This small masterpiece should be better known.

    Richard Stark: Slayground.

    This one remains one of my two or three favorite Parker novels. The technical display that Westlake puts on here is formidable. The escape problem he sets for Parker is appropriate for a Houdini. The drive of this novel is relentless, there is not a word wasted. If somebody wanted to know what hardboiled is, Slayground would be a perfect suggestion.

    Ross Thomas: The Singapore Wink.

    It had been years since I had read this one. Very clever and twisted plot, as always in Thomas, thoroughly credible characters in actions and speech, a bizarre, almost Gothic conclusion -- add up to great entertainment in one sitting. Interesting combination of mafiosi, government and a very capable innocent who is thrown into the mix as protagonist. If you run into this one, pick it up.



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