If the levity of BOBBY Z hit you the wrong way, you may have the same take on SAVAGES. The fun of the book is its humor, its pacing, its scathing cultural insights and its sketches of life among the criminal set in Southern Cal. The head of the Baja Cartel is particularly well and surprisingly drawn. My favorite part of the book so far.
POWER OF THE DOG on the other hand is a meatier read, less jocular in tone, more tragic and heartfelt. (If you've already read it, please excuse the blather.)
My only complaint with SAVAGES, in fact, is that the humor and breezy style undercuts some of the drama. I've yet to sink into the book and begin to feel deeply for anyone, even the cartel leader -- I'm interested but not invested -- though I'm enjoying the heck out of the read. Maybe that depth of feeling will come cumulatively -- or when somebody dies -- or maybe it's not just the point of the exercise.
There's a British slang expression for this: fur coat, no knickers, i.e., more surface than substance. A lot of that in the Internet age. SAVAGES has plenty of substance, but it lacks a certain emotional depth, if that makes sense. At the end of movies like VERTIGO or NIGHT & THE CITY or DOG DAY AFTERNOON or CHINATOWN (or THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE with Robert Mitchum, which I just saw for the first time a week ago), or books like THE LONG FIRM or THE GETAWAY or THE ICE HARVEST or THEFT or GOD'S POCKET (or as discussed, THE ZERO), you feel a certain emotional impact (if not devastation), a blow to your head and heart that stays with you like an emotional hangover. That's what I'm usually looking for. I'm not sure SAVAGES will deliver it, but it's so surprising and fun and smart on so many other levels I'll stick with it just to see.
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