RARA-AVIS: Multiple perspectives, serial killers, The Follower, and His Name Was Death

From: bobav1 (bob.vietrogoski@gmail.com)
Date: 20 Aug 2010

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Multiple perspectives, serial killers, The Follower, and His Name Was Death"

    This post merges a couple different recent threads. I think Jason Starr is as good as it gets, and I recommend his 2007 novel The Follower as a good example of a novel that generates suspense and humor from the use of different character perspectives on the same events. He's especially good at having characters think wrongly about how the other characters are thinking! This story of young New Yorkers is a page turning current day social noir. Starr also does what some of you recommend in serial killer novels: get inside the mind of the killer without providing pat psychological explanations. Peter thinks the way he thinks, and the rest follows. Plus the realistic New York City settings and dialogue make the characters jump off the page.

    My praise of The Follower is tempered by noting one major problem I had with the story: the ending. After many thrilling, inventive pages, the book slows down, takes an unfortunate geographical turn, and winds up with a by the numbers ending, one that you could see on Lifetime Television. I really expected one more twist, one more revelation about the sister or something, but instead got the pedestrian wrapup. So it's an A+ book with a B- ending.
      In contrast is Frederic Brown's His Name Was Death, a 1951 novel that I recently read in the 1991 Black Lizard reprint. It's dated in every facet, from the crime, to the roominghouses and taverns, to the social relations of the main characters. I turned the pages, but didn't feel like this was anything more than a mildly enjoyable quick nostalgic read . . . until the last 2 pages, where Brown unleashes one of his usual gutpunch endings. So it's a B- book with an A+ ending.

    Between the two, I enjoyed Starr more because I live in the world of his characters, not in Brown's 60 years past world. But the saving grace of a powerful ending versus a weak ending can really make a difference.

    Bob V in NJ

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