RARA-AVIS: Re: Slayground

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 31 Aug 2010

  • Next message: tomarmstrongmusic: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Slayground"

    On Aug 31, 2010, at 8:45 AM, Tom wrote:

    > Well, the claustrophobia of it, being stuck in a seeming no-win situation against overwhelming odds. Parker in survival mode, being pushed to the limits of his ingenuity, patience, and physical abilities. I mean the physical ordeal alone was grueling - the cold, the wet, the hunger, the strains of action and inaction. It was brutal.
    > The immediate predecessor to this one, "Deadly Edge" is Parker vs. a couple of Manson-esque hippies. Gee, who's gonna win that match-up? It's always a foregone conclusion that Parker is going to somehow get out of his predicaments. But this time, I really couldn't see how he was going to make it, and that ratcheted up the tension for me...
    > "Slayground" does have an element of more obvious or self-conscious cleverness to it. The Parker variant of the ol' locked-room mystery. But Westlake really sold it to me. He kept it down & dirty and human. Parker just scrapes by on smarts and brass balls. This is one of my faves of the series.

    This reminds me of one of my favourites in another well-regarded and long-running series, Bill Pronzini's Nameless books.

    SHACKLED, about halfway through the series, is also mostly concerned with one man in a tight spot, an inverted locked room mystery of sorts with Nameless left to die, shackled, in a desolate cabin. It's a real aberration in a series that had already been all over the stylistic map (almost always successfully), ranging from gritty hard-boiled to almost-cozy to classic locked room to almost soapy melodrama. At times, the intensity of SHACKLED reminded me of Stephen King's MISERY, but tauter and tighter, with less literary scenery chewing.

    Lately, the series -- which now has the former lone wolf investigator Nameless (now Bill) running a small agency -- has settled down into a sort of tough/tender P.I. procedural, presenting multiple viewpoints and three or four dramatically linked sub-plots, that may remind readers of Gores' DKA novels or even McBain's 87th Precinct books.

    But I get the feeling Pronzini's not done playing with ol' Nameless yet, and it's the notion that he may yet blindside us with another SHACKLED that keeps me reading...

    Kevin Burton Smith Editor/Founder The Thrilling Detective Web Site
    "Wasting your time on the web since 1998."

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