RARA-AVIS: Re: night dogs by kent anderson

From: tomarmstrongmusic (tom@tomarmstrongmusic.com)
Date: 22 Dec 2009

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    I just finished "Night Dogs" myself. I had a mixed reaction to it. It's a character driven work, and it succeeds brilliantly on that level. The character of Hanson is indelible. You really get inside Hanson's head and understand the mass of contradictions he lives with.

    The episodic structure took a bit of getting used to, but I wouldn't call it a weakness, as it just isn't a plot-driven book. After a while though, the episodes hit this plateau where each one is just another snapshot of horror.

    There's no joy, no light, no pleasure in the world of this novel. At best, there are moments of mental stillness in nature and solitude, otherwise all is blood, violence, pain, loathing, death, guns, alcohol, feces, and feral dogs. With a little rough sex now & then.

    This relentlessness is what gives the novel its cumulative power, but at times it bordered on self-parody. So not only is the house burning down with one of the characters in it gun-battling the cops, but there has to be a pack of feral dogs stuck on the roof being burned to death? And the SWAT guys blow them away with shotguns? And we have to get every detail of the dog's mange and singed fur and it's horrific wounds and its blood & guts spewing everywhere as it hits the pavement? I guess, but geez.

    There were other more technical things that bothered me. Spots where it wasn't clear to me what had happened. When one of the cop characters reveals that he's going to be retiring in a few months, well my cliche-o-meter knew without a doubt that the character was gonna die before book's end. Hanson has a feud with a fellow cop who is looking to ruin him, and that plot thread is wrapped up very conveniently. So what happened with Hanson and the BDSM artist girl? That subplot just sorta fizzles.

    But, to make a positive sandwich, Hanson as a character is the stuff literature is made of. Getting inside his head and his world was very much worth it. The chapter about the dog lab was harrowing and beautiful in its way, and a number of the episodes where Hanson's compassion emerges while doing his job will stick with me for a long time.

    Tom Armstrong

    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, sonny <sforstater@...> wrote:
    > wow.  this was one powerful book.  since i'm sure i first heard of it from one of you folks, i'm not saying anything new, but i'll just throw in with all of you and most every author we like in recommending very strongly to anyone who hasn't yet read it.
    > i've not read anderson's previous novel with the same character in vietnam and tho i still might, i sort of wish i had read that one first. what i'm wondering is if he still writing. i see a collection of short non fiction but that's 10 years ago too i think.
    > for anyone not familiar, it's about a cop in portland, oregon in the 70's (which the author also was). hardcore and hard boiled. it was written in the 90's.
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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