Books: Independent choice - American crime writing
Saturday 01 November 1997
The fourth in a series featuring Washington homicide detective Alex Cross, Cat and Mouse is an off-the-shelf serial killer story, the old "who's the hunter and who the hunted?" one. It contains no element of originality in plot, villain, hero or style; worse, no attempted originality. Shootings and stabbings are interspersed with banal, made-for-TV scenes of family life. The author shoves irritating folk sayings into the mouths of whoever happens to be speaking: the nearest he gets to characterisation.
Headline's publicists boast that "No other hardback launch has been so powerfully marketed". They should be ashamed. There are undoubtedly more good thriller writers active today than at any previous time, and no excuse for wasting vast sums on a book as unremittingly ordinary as this one. The ending, incidentally, is a cynical, corny teaser for the next instalment in the series.
The only way to read James Crumley is to surrender yourself to the rough- bearded, booze-breathed poetry, the belligerent sentimentality, the not always pleasant but impressive spectacle of rednecked men exposing themselves to themselves. On about page 20 I lost track of the plot of Bordersnakes (HarperCollins, pounds 15.99) - some kind of revenge-fuelled odyssey thing - and by page 21 I just didn't care. The jokes are funny, the sex and violence even funnier. The dialogue rolls like a river: only genuine gut-writing can produce such slick fluency without sacrificing the abrasiveness of the characters.
This book brings together Crumley's two private eyes, Milo Milodragovitch and C W Sughrue, avoiding death around the Tex-Mex border. "Shit happens" is their philosophy; and "Anybody who speaks badly of revenge ain't never lost nothing important". If you've ever wondered what happened to the Western, here's your answer. It has claimed a new territory inside crime fiction.
Another example of the New Western is Joe R Lansdale's Bad Chili (Gollancz, pounds 9.99), latest in what is becoming one of the decade's great crime series - despite its potentially corny "odd couple" premise. While Hap's away on an oil-rig, best friend Leonard loses his job as a bouncer for urinating on a troublemaker's head. United, the boys fight a rabid squirrel. When Leonard's boyfriend turns up, murdered, he's the obvious suspect. The book is full of country satire, earthy and brutal. Watching daytime TV, Hap notes: "I could have told those people quick-like why they were having so much trouble with their lives. They were dumb shits and proud of it." Lansdale perhaps comes closer than any other writer to achieving the mystic union of rock and roll, comedy and cri-fi. His barkingly funny dialogue and robust simplicity of characterisation make this the kind of book you read with your ears.
Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift
Follow the latest events from this Champions League fixture
Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice
Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'
techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say
Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains
Life & Style blogs
iPhone 6 'catches on fire and burns man's leg after bending in his pocket'
Are you ready for Crazy Doritos, the red-hot snack food craze sweeping Mexico’s streets?
Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
The inventor of the Facebook 'like' button says he never made a 'dislike' button because he feared the 'unfortunate consequences'
What lies beneath La Perla's 60 years of luxury lingerie?
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
Lord Freud hangs on as MPs of all parties 'call for his head' over disability comments
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 5 The inventor of the Facebook 'like' button says he never made a 'dislike' button because he feared the 'unfortunate consequences'
£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Assistant - Windows XP/7/8, Netwo...
£100 - £140 per day + Flexible with benefits: Randstad Education Group: Key St...
£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: This good to outstanding school...