Thursday, May 10, 2018

Some Quick Shots

Too many books, too little time. However, these are among the best that have come my way over the last couple of months:

-Green Sun by Kent Anderson (Mulholland Books). Noir cop adventures unlike any other. Takes up from where Anderson's Night Dogs left off. Which if you  haven't read, you should immediately track down. And if you have read it, you know what you are in store for with Anderson's latest. Vietnam vet Hanson is now perusing the streets of Oakland, wondering, of course, if it's worth it. I imagine that Anderson's books are as close as it gets to telling like it is when it comes to the politics of being a cop.

-South Atlantic Requiem by Edward Wilson (Arcadia Books).  Wilson once again proves himself to be one of the best around at tracking late 20th century UK/US spook connections. His seven novels constitute a virtual history of that period.  His latest, which of course features his favourite MI6 agent William Catesby, concerns the Falklands War. About time that some novelist lifted the lid on that one, with its sordid, Trump-like crimes. And there's no one better suited to the task than Wilson.

Ivory Pearl by Jean-Patrick Manchette (NYRB). Perversely, perhaps, this has long been my favourite Manchette novel, finally available in a superb translation by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Unfortunately, Manchette died before  finishing it. However, his son, Doug Headline, was able to put the finishing touches to it. Manchette believed the polar had hit a deadend, and this was, for him, the future of hardboiled nor.  Which is to say, to open the genre to the ins and outs of global capitalism, and let the bodies fall where they may. Set for the most part in Cuba's Sierra Maestra mountains in the 1950s, around the time of Castro's landing, Ivory Pearl reads like a cross between Ross Thomas and John LeCarré, with, of course,  the political engagement of Manchette, ever the  unreconstructed soixante-huitard, thrown in for good measure.

-Body & Soul by John Harvey (Heinemann). Ex-cop Frank Elder, with whom most  Harvey readers will be familiar, is now on his own, living in Cornwall. His daughter, the victim of a vicious attack in a previous novel, is now scrambling to make a life for herself in London. She lands a job modelling for a highly-rated but personally suspect artist, later found murdered. Not that one has to work hard to suspend one's disbelief, because, as usual, Harvey's characters are believable, his locales evocative, and his humanity crystal clear. Moreover, the portrayal of the thin-skinned but compassionate Elder as he as he negotiates the dark side of the art world and his own demons, is never less than touching.

-The Annotated Big Sleep by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson and Anthony Rizzuto (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard). A must for any Chandler obsessive.  It also happens to be one of the most entertaining, perhaps funniest, books I've read for a while. Everything you wanted, and maybe didn't want, to know about Chandler, The Big Sleep, and the world around it. Any serious Chandler reader will know some of the information, but what they will probably enjoy best is when the book best ventures off-piste exploring tangentially related bits of information. So pour yourself a gimlet and enjoy The Big Sleep as you never have before.

-I'll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara (Faber). Generally, I don't read  much true crime, but McNamara's book is as much about her  obsession with the Golden State Killer who raped and murdered women for more than a decade, as anything else. We now know someone has been arrested for those crimes. One naturally wonders if McNamara's book had anything to do with the suspect's arrest. McNamara, who grew up in the area of Northern California where the crimes took place, fills her book with grisly details, but the most interesting aspect, at least for me, are those parts in which she writes about herself, her background and her obsession with the case. She died before completing her book, but  true crime writer and researcher Paul Haynes teamed up with McNamara's husband Patton Oswalt to add the finishing touches. A fascinating and absorbing investigation, wonderfully written, and, despite its subject, impossible to put down.

No comments: