A weblog dedicated to noir fiction and film, music, poetry and politics.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Dead Boys by Richard Lange
I picked up this one based on enticing jacket comments by Pelecanos, Connelly, Offutt and Woodrell, read the first few stories, which I thought were good, but derivative. I put it aside for close to a year, picked it up again a few weeks ago and was blown away by it. How could I have thought it derivative, when Lange's is such an individual voice? It just goes to show that you have to be in the right frame of mind when reading a particular book. But Lange has definitely put his own stamp on the low- life, urban-grit short story as few others have been able to do. It put me in mind of Dennis Johnson's Jesus's Son, but it's more compact and consistent than the latter and its imagery is more precise. Lange could be thought of as the grandchild of Selby and Bukowski, and the cousin of Donald Ray Pollock, whose Knock Em Stiff bears certain similarities. In any case, Lange's low-life characters, as comic as they are tragic, invariably ring true, always pushing at what's possible, accompanied by some magnificent bits of linguistic juxtaposition. I was particularly amused by the following, from his story "Loss Prevention":
"Every junkie I've ever known has had a thing for Neil Young. Be he a punk, a metalhead, or just your garden-variety handlebar-mustachioed dirtbag, if he hauls around a monkey, he's going to have Decade in his collection, and he's bound to ruin more than a few parties by insisting that you play at least some of it, no matter that the prettiest girl in the room is begging for something she can dance to. Even if he gets off dope, he sticks with Neil, because by then Neil's become the soundtracks to his outlaw past. Let him hear 'Old Man' or 'Sugar Mountain' years after the fact, and everything in him will hum like a just-struck tuning fork as mind and body and blood harmonize in mutual longing for a time when desire was an easy itch to scratch."
Just as I was finishing Dead Boys, I came across an interview with him in the LA Weekly, and discovered that he's just produced a novel entitled This Wicked World. That's one I've got to get my hands on.
London-based journalist and author of Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood.