Charlie Huston: A Dangerous Man

I had an educated guess as to how A Dangerous Man would bring Huston’s Hank Thompson trilogy to full circle: some naif would bumble into Hank’s way in much the same way Hank stumbled into some nasty heavies in Caught Stealing; Hank would understimate the noob as he himself was once underestimated. Hank might manageContinue reading “Charlie Huston: A Dangerous Man”

Lee Irby: The Up and Up

Small-time hood Frank Hearn makes it out of Irby’s previous Prohibition-era caper novel 7,000 Clams with his skin fundamentally intact and the love of a really terrific dame, but (no spoiler, really) without enough scratch to give her the kind of life he wants to. So in this sequel he goes straight and tries toContinue reading “Lee Irby: The Up and Up”

Charlie Huston: The Shotgun Rule

When writing about Huston I have to resist the temptation of tired metaphors: electricity, velocity, whips, blisters. They’re especially inappropriate, because one of Huston’s tricks for avoiding noir clichés is to avoid metaphor and simile almost completely. Huston’s crafts terse, almost reportorial, prose enlivened by a practiced eye for the telling detail, and an earContinue reading “Charlie Huston: The Shotgun Rule”

Lee Irby: 7,000 Clams

I think the worst thing about becoming a baseball fan for me is getting infested by the magical thinking associated with the sport. This intricately-plotted, noirish crime novel features Babe Ruth (as a Yankee, in the 1925 offseason) and I found myself vaguely worried that reading it was somehow disloyal to my team. But there’sContinue reading “Lee Irby: 7,000 Clams”

Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing

What if somebody had a heart attack reading an exciting novel, and the Surgeon General determined that some novels ought to have medical warnings, and an MPAA-like board — the Literary Medical Review Committee, say — was formed to review and rate books? Then Caught Stealing would have a banner on the front cover thatContinue reading “Charlie Huston: Caught Stealing”

Doug Dorst: Alive in Necropolis

The book jacket description and a handful of pull quotes (from writers with ties to the McSweeney’s camp, mostly) were enough to get me to read Alive in Necropolis, but the novel exceeded the expectations I had of it. It sounds perhaps a bit silly in capsule form: emotionally fragile rookie cop Michael Mercer rescuesContinue reading “Doug Dorst: Alive in Necropolis”

Mario Acevedo: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats

Several months ago, my eye was caught by an ad for the sequel to this vampire P.I. novel, X-rated Bloodsuckers. I thought it looked like trashy fun and I liked the implicit conceit of juxtaposing literal consumption of humans with the legendarily exploitive adult entertainment industry. When I looked up Acevedo’s name in the libraryContinue reading “Mario Acevedo: The Nymphos of Rocky Flats”

Karen Novak: Five Mile House

Karen Novak’s Five Mile House is unambiguously a ghost story, even a haunted house story — one of the narrative voices belongs to a ghost, and provides the novel with its arresting opening sentences: I am Eleanor, and I, like this house, am haunted. I died when I fell from this tower, that window. ItContinue reading “Karen Novak: Five Mile House”