Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Search for Philip K. Dick

Anne R. Dick
The Search for Philip K. Dick

Tachyon Publications, 2010

Memoirs of the third wife of Philip K. Dick, who lived with him for six years, consist of three parts. The first part describes life with one of the most influential writers of the second half of XX century. This is the most vulnerable point of the book, but, perhaps, the most interesting as well. The relationship between then married on his second wife Dick and recently moved to that town where he lived, Anne Dick, a young widow with two children, started easy. Ann and Philip have been interested in each other, and Anne also had a passion for writers (her late husband was a poet.) For Ann’s sake Dick without any problems divorces his wife, and his new wife becomes Anne. During these six years of life Dick’d written Confessions of a Crap Artist, Martian Time Slip, The Man in the High Castle, The Game Players of Titan and other books. Dick often included scenes from his life in his own books. Anne was also the prototype for many of the heroines of the novels of Dick. During these years there has been one of the most critical moment in Dick’s literary career:

Phil's agent submitted the Confessions manuscript to Knopf. Alfred Knopf personally wrote to Phil saying he was interested in publishing the novel if Phil would rewrite the last third to make the female character more sympathetic. He compared Phil's writing to that of Salinger, Roth, and Mailer, the three top novelists of that time. We were both thrilled - but Phil said, "I can't rewrite this novel. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I'm not able to. "This is a big clue to Phil's writing. At the time I was disappointed that Phil wouldn't or couldn't take advantage of this fantastic opportunity, but it was his novel, his career, his decision. Of course Knopf didn't buy the novel.

Perhaps, if Dick then would sell the novel to Knopf, we would not see The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Valis, but we would see another Dick.

Anne initially admired prolificity of the husband and was proud that he was quite well-known writer, but later everything started to change. Dick's novels became more and more anxious, gloomy, and the writer himself has changed, gradually losing control of himself. Anne tried to save the marriage, but saving the family could cost Dick a part of himself. And because of this you should not trust everything that is written in this book. It's the memories of hurt women, left behind and abandoned. Anne takes a firm stance here: I was right in everything, the family split up due to the fault of Phil. And emotions often obscure the truth.

We should not believe Dick as well, who was himself a master of invention. He made his life like his books and his books like his life. More objective in the book are the next parts of the book where Anne Dick, based on interviews and documents, restores the childhood of Dick and the life after her divorce with him. The author covered a large number of sources, including interviews with other wives of Phil, to show the reader the most plausible picture of events. After the divorce from Anne Dick's life, however, takes the shape so surreal that the remaining two-thirds of the book reads more like fiction than like non-fiction.

At the end of his life, Dick has become a mockery: he suffers from various types of mental illness, becomes paranoid, inconsistent. A great writer, lost soul, he becomes the hero of his own novels. However, he lived as he wanted. And we finally learned what was the life of the great creator.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Needle

Jennifer Grotz
The Needle

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

In her second collection of poems Jennifer Grotz looks at people and urban landscape of the modern city. In an interview Grotz noted that she’s tried to make this book more objective. Indeed, the poet is almost merges with the world. In the first part of the book most of the poems are about a city, and in them there is almost no "I". City in Grotz’s poetry is not mythologized, it remains what it has in a very material sense: the walls, roads, the smells, the colors, of course, people.

The city would begin as slowly as the old man in a brown fedora
making his way down the street, a walking stick in one hand
and the arm of the elderly woman beside him in the other.

The author has traveled extensively, and this is reflected in Grotz’s poems. Icons, Town Square, a nun, break-dansers, street theater - all this the author brings with her from the travel, putting into verse.

I can't make out their words, but I'm thinking about an actor
who bequeathed his own skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company
to serve as Yorik's in the graveyard scene,

wanting perhaps to serve later Hamlets in this modest way,
having spent many nights holding up a plaster copy
and looking deep into the empty eye sockets, open jaw.

The second part consists of poems about the deseased brother. Grotz writes about it without any strain, with love sometimes not even sister’s but mother’s: «I mothered you, I protected you, you were my baby, my toy». Together with memories of the brother the memories of childhood come. Serenity (not coldness) of poems of Grotz also is in the selected rhythm. Almost all the poems here are written in long lines, with correct, complete sentences. Grotz’s world is not broken, it is too beautiful, though at times is painful, to break down, roll into individual words.

Grotz’s poetry is natural poetry, the poetry of life and prosperity. But the poems in this book were written even with that degree of intelligence, when you look at clouds and see a cat's face, but understand that this is primarily just a cloud.

Monday, July 25, 2011

God Bless America

Mark SaFranko
God Bless America

Murder Slim Press, 2010

A small American town Trenton. The postwar years. Childhood of a future writer Max Zajack. Scandals between parents, losers-relatives, stupid neighbors, racism, school lessons, household duties. Everything that surrounds little Max, he hates. Max tells the story not from the perspective of a young boy, yet not really knowing the world, but from the perspective of an adult who knows too much. In the story there is no innocence, hope and joyful rose-colored glasses, which seem to be inherent in all children. But not in Max. He, it seems, from the first day of his life knew there would be no good for his life. Yes, and how we can hope for something, if you are surrounded with a loser father, until his death called to work on the most impenetrable work, and his psychic mother, obsessed with cleanliness, drunken relatives, idiots classmates. America itself is rolling slowly into the abyss together with the people inhabiting it. If in the U.S. there is a paradise place, then Mark SaFranko does not know about this. His America is the land of immigrants and blacks.

Little Max has no delusions about himself as well. He is so passive that even after being beaten and robbed, he did not care. Max realizes that he is not far gone from his clueless father and a nervous mother. He goes with the flow and he does not care much where he will be: «I did nothing, nothing ever happened, and nothing was ever going to happen. But life went on. Even if you were miserable, life always went on».

SaFranko is a master to build excellent individual scenes. The whole book is divided into small chapters, and each chapter is almost a complete story, stand-alone story. Despite the monotony the life of Max is a full of events. All of them are usually tragic and comic at the same time.

«God Bless America» is probably the funniest book I've read this year. There are so many idiotic situations, so much stupidity, so much light-heartedness. Without this sinister laughter, the book would be totally bleak.

This Mark SaFranko is a great talent and his «God Bless America» is a small masterpiece.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Ray Banks

Self-published e-book, 2011

Richie, after 18 months in jail, is back on streets. Not wanting to work like all law-abiding citizens, Ritchie in search of work appeals to Goose, the one-legged crime boss, for whom Richie received the time. Goose does not even remember who Richie is, but throws up job for him: to pick up a gun at the address and brought it to Goose. Richie agrees. The difficulties begin as soon as Richie gets a gun.

Ray Banks in the image of Richie presents us a loser of that breed, which attracts trouble like a huge magnet. The novella is written in the third person, but the author uses the method that the boundary between the first and third person is almost erased. Because of his bad luck Richie is so embittered at the world and himself, it seems that his curse is directed to a reader: «A lot of thoughts running through Richie's head, the same old story about a lost leg on Goose Green when everyone knew what really happened - stupid bastard mainlined an artery. But you never said that to Goose. He might've been a fucking cripple and nose-deep in his own product, but Goose had a rep that stretched back since before the riots. And that rep was what brought Richie over today».

On the example of Richie we can clearly see a contemporary life of the lower classes in England. They are too proud to work, not educated, often dumb, but Richie takes what he needs to take with his aggressiveness.

«Gun», that is also important to note, is a work not only speeding, but still very funny. And despite the fact that we are simpathizing with Richie in the course of reading, we also think, 'All of this is his own fault".

This "Gun" is a deadly thing.

The Fever Kill

Tom Piccirilli
The Fever Kill

Crossroad Press e-book, 2010

Crease, an undercover cop, so got used to a role that even his boss, drug lord Tucco, considers him his right hand and perhaps the best friend, returns to his hometown. Crease knocked up Tucco’s girlfriend, almost left his family with several adopted children, and now runs from its own present to a dark past. Crease’s father, a local sheriff, ten years earlier participated in the liberation of kidnapped a little girl but the girl was killed and a ransom was never found. Sheriff then drinks himself to death, and Crease, not endured humiliation from the townspeople, runs away to New York and becomes a cop, like his father. Returning to his hometown, Crease investigates kidnapping of that little girl, meets old friends and waits for arrival of Tucco thirsting for revenge.

Piccirilli is especially good at characters such as Crease. They are broken down, riven between past and present, they do not really know what they want from life, but not because they did not see life, but because they saw too much. Crease also can not really explain his visit to his hometown: «It wasn't to make amends to the old man. He could never do that and wouldn't bother trying. But he'd come back here for some reason and he figured this might be a part of it, and anyway, he had a day or two until Tucco showed up». Crease, without knowing why, begins to question relatives, neighbors of the killed girl, and let the mystery part there is not so sophisticated, «The Fever Kill» is an excellent mestery among other things.

«The Fever Kill» is also modern Western. Knowing the ability of Tucco’s using of knife, Crease also readies cold arms, realizing that the fight with the boss can not be avoided. Returning to his hometown is the last chance to atone for his sins (and the sins of the father) and, if you are lucky to stay alive, to decide where to go.

This short Piccirilli’s novel is a real pleasure.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cavemen in Space

Joey Weiser
Cavemen in Space

Self-published, distr. by Adhouse Books, 2010

A scientist from the future takes away some prehistoric cave men and places them in his spaceship «The Wheel». With the help of special techniques the scientist works on brains of people from the past, raising their level of intelligence. Chief of the cavemen - a tall man in an animal's skin with the name Washington - is the principal assistant of the scientist. Each of the cavemen do what they do once in the past, but this time more consciously. To the spacecraft with an unexpected tour comes an alien race with outwardly friendly intensions. But the aliens are more insidious than they appear, and the team of cavemen will beat off the alien hordes.

«Cavemen in Space» is a funny story in the spirit of science fiction of 40-50th with a mixture of "Flintstones." Subject of jokes here are the future technology and the past of the cavemen. Do not expect from a novel infinite action. The battle with the aliens begins only at the end of the book, and the battle scenes are drawn in cartoon style. Weiser carefully looks at the problem of adaptation of cave men in the world of the future. Washington and his friends feel the new features, feel the need in them, they like to help a scientist, like to develop, but their origin is not extinguish. For all the sophistication of the brain inside each cave man still Cro-Magnon sits, whose survival instincts trump everything else. And so the most important task for the cavemen is not to fight with the aggressive aliens but to choose his true purpose: to go back and be himself or to stay and feel his own inferiority to the end of days?
Weiser in his seemingly young adult book asks not children's questions.


Jeff Vandermeer

Corvus, 2010

In the city of Ambergris, half rotten and lying in ruins, in an apartment two dead bodies are found. One of the bodies belongs to the man, the other to a gray cap, a representative of fungus race, enslaved people. Grey caps captured Ambergris six years before the described events. Fungi have used the war between the royal houses, and now hold the men under his control, having caught on its side apostates – the partials: they are people whose bodies are irrevocably changed under the influence of fungal spores used as drugs. However, the gray caps are not all-powerful, and to find the killer of a man and a gray cap, a gray cap named Heretic orders the detective John Finch to investigate the murder. Murder is extremely strange, in the apartment gray caps did not find any evidence, any possible clues, not even the slightest idea who the murdered were. On the body of the fungus was only a memory bulb. After eating it, you can get access to the memories of a dead man. Finch’s boss Heretic tells the detective to solve the crime as soon as possible, otherwise Finch will be sent to a labor camp. In the city, however, units of the rebels are still operating, plotting to overthrow the plan of gray caps, until it it too late. And when Finch realizes that the murders are somehow connected with the rebels, his life is hanging by a thread.

«Finch» is called a "fungus noir", and this is only half of the true. Fungus here does play an important role, but book is called noir by mistake. Yes, there is a dark atmosphere, there is a detective, betrayals, but these features are not unique to noir only. «Finch» is a police procedural in the world of George Orwell's "1984" with a fair amount of Philip Dick. Finch in the novel is not doomed hero. He is clever and rather relies on its head, not the heart. Finch is tired man, tired of himself, of his helplessness, of total despair. He is a fighter, but the enslavement breaks even the most persistent. In the life of Finch, there are women who could be considered femme fatal as yet another feature of noir. But women are not selfish, greedy, fallen, but also tired of trying to survive under the weight of fungus race. They are not heartless ladies, each of them loves Finch. A lump of events that is about to lead to disaster, suddenly turns into a completely different direction.

Does that mean that «Finch», erroneously been called noir, is a bad novel? Certainly not. This is exciting novel. Primarily due to the fact that Vandermeer managed to create a distinct character in Finch. Finch, all these years living under oppression and working for someone else's race, pushes his past as deeply as possible into himself. His past is his salvation and his death. He was once a soldier, now an accomplice to the gray caps. Finch despises himself to work for the invaders to stay alive. And when the investigation takes the detective on the rebels before Finch faces the most difficult choice in his life.

Fungal mold in the book is a metaphor for decay and rot. Above the town is filthy smell, all enmeshed in a cobweb. And it seems that this will never end. Inside people hope rots. Many sit on the drug, changing forever. (Thus, another detective, Stark, under the influence of mushrooms becomes just inhuman and asks Finch to kill him.)

Vandermeer deceives the reader several times, first offering a police investigation, then a spy novel, and after all partisan chronicles. The author masterfully weaves intrigue, there are a lot of plot twists. Fantasy ambiance refreshes a detective story.

Stylistically Vandermeer successfully demonstrated that level of fear and despair that fill the city. Residents of Ambergris are afraid to say too much and think too much, and Vandermeer also removes all the excess from a sentence: «Back in the hotel. Near midnight. Didn't know for sure. Approached the landing below the seventh floor. Heard Feral hissing at something. Saw a flickering, golden light that projected a circle of fire. Elongated and slanted down the hallway. Distorted further by the fungus on the walls. A rank smell, like too-strong perfume».

Vandermeer has written a masterful, wonderful novel, and we can only applaud.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Language of Dying

Sarah Pinborough
The Language of Dying

PS Publishing, 2009

«There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and none of us can avoid oit taste in our mouths. Whether we are sick or healthy it finds us eventually. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses' starched skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs. They've taught me to face the language a syllable at a time, slowly creating an unwilling meaning from it ». So begins this story about dying. In the family the father dies, and five his children gather in the home to be with his father the last few days before his death. The story is told by one of the daughters, who took care of his father, while everyone else went away and minded their own businesses. The story tells from the first person view, but with permanent patches of the second person, this is a kind of monologue, addressed to the dying. Coming father's death is not only the death of one individual, but also the death of the family, its disintegration. A few days before his death it’s the last chance for children to stay together, reunite, solve problems, to forgive one another, and then again to return to their lives, not particularly good ones (especially for the three brothers).

A reader of the novella is also supposed to become a member of the family as an equal surviving parent's death. Inside everything stops, you are a little shaking, throat dry. In such cases, the death of someone else always seems worse than your own.

Before his death, a person leaves all too much, and no one is between here and there. So reading this book, the reader is left alone with a book - with pain, fear and hope.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Popgun Vol. 4

Popgun Vol. 4
Ed. by D.J. Kirkbride, Anthony Wu, Adam P. Knave

Image Comics, 2010

How to define the compilers of this anthology, «Popgun» is a mixtape. Completely different styles, different stories, different characters. If we continue to compare the book with music, something there sounds out of tune, something is too loud, somewhere there is nice vocals (art), but the music (the plot) is so-so. 500-plus pages of colors and you can’t like all of that.

To start, there is too much escapism in the book. People from our world are faced with another world, and the parallel world, however beautiful or dangerous it was, is always better than our world. Sci-fi here is in all its forms, from fantasy to neocyberpunk mystery. And if art is most often very good, the stories are always too flighty, with no internal logic. Almost always there is interesting complication of the plot, but not a solution. However, a number of works in «Popgun» proved to be equally successful in terms of art and in terms of plot.

A realistic story of Stephanie Ramirez «Thinking Out Cloud» reads like a YA fantasy. In the «Agent Orange» by Darren Rawlings robot private detective exposes dishonest businessman, knocks-out a few robots and saves the world from an ancient curse. «Family Reunion» by David Brenion and Joe Flood tells about what happened to the heroes of cartoons and books after they lost their former glory. Authors create a funny satire on Superhero stamps. «The Eye» by Jeremy Tinder starts as a typical story about a private eye with a big eye instead of a head, but later the story turns into something bigger (and with large portions of the black humor). «Rusted: Faded Signal» by Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn attracts the attention first of all with a wonderful art, you get the impression as if you read the yellowed parchment. The story unfolds in a desert, where, after some catastrophe, a girl tries to find a radio tower to get the help. Completely insane is «Sasquatch» by Nick Edwards. Children go into the woods for a picnic, and one of the boys, bespectacled Nigel, becomes so teased that he runs away to the river, looking for solitude, but instead meets sasquatch. They become friends, and here you can begin to laugh. Hilarious story.

One of the few realistic graphic stories here is «Hamburgers for One» by Frank Stockton, it is also one of the best in the book. Plump clumsy young man takes out the trash, feeds rat with a candy and goes to fast food cafe. In there his attention is attracted by a pretty brunette cashier. Stockton is unhurried, attentive to details; sometimes the artist achieves photographic autenticity in panels.

We should also mention a number of single-page strips by Erik Larsen «Reggie the Veggie». First and foremost this is a very clever and funny comics, as comic strip about a legless cripple can be funny.

Graphically «Popgun» is an almost ideal anthology, bright, bold, diverse, but it lacks good storytelling.

Lemon Styles

David King
Lemon Styles

Sparkplug Comics, 2010

We often perceive comics as moving pictures - with the obvious plot complication and denouement - as opposed to art books, where the drawing deliberately stopped in time. «Lemon Styles» is a mix between a comic and an art book, with the clarification that this art book drawn by a comics fan and a man with a good sense of humor. This slim book is a collection of single-page strips with a repeating set of characters. They are three of them: the blonde with pierced ears, balding bespectacled man with a bow tie instead of a tie and long-nosed curly man with larhe eyebrows. On each page, they play some scene from everyday American life. This is King's neighbors, as they are represented to us by the author.

Each page is divided into four panels, and that is plays obtained in four acts. In each of the plays at first glance, there is a plot, but I did not in vain called «Lemon Styles» art book as well. It’s good to keep on the coffee table and read a page a day, otherwise all the pages will be merged into one. David King on its pages captures something elusive, that moment between intention and the rejection of the action. And if you read the book in one read, important component of the book will disappear. The author has excellent sense of humor, but he applies this sense here in the opposite direction. When you read from page three panels of the four, it is clear that the fourth will be a gag: gag is that there is no gag. Behind this book we can see a great aptitude of David King, the next time I want to see how he can use his strange sense of humor in a large project.

Monday, July 18, 2011

plug for Locus magazine

Locus magazine

I wrote about "Locus" last year, since in the magazine some important changes have been made. The most important of them is that the magazine is now distributed in digital form. Now it's fast and cheap (foreign subscribers receive digital version for free). If earlier you would have to wait for weeks, now the magazine can be read on the first day of sales. The second major change is the interviews. Previously, "Locus" mainly publishes interviews with writers. But fandom is not just writers and, accordingly, readers. It is also artists, critics, editors, podcasters etc etc. All these figures were often unnoticed. Now you can read in a magazine interview, for example, with the editor Sharyn November (02-2011), and in the January issue the main theme is e-books with dozens of interviews in the magazine.

What I always liked in interview in "Locus" is the fact that they were not short-term. Today interview with the author often turns into a way to just make a PR for a book, reduced to combinations of the samequestions. How did you write this book, what are working on now, who you are influenced by - these plus some other questions are compiled, and interview is done. The interviewer will not go deep, and the author does not want to strain (especially if the author after the book is out this month has to give several dozens of interviews). So, what lies deep in the interview - a conversation - disappears, replaced by a quick chat, not binding to anything. In "Locus" a figure of interviewer is generally removed, there are no questions, only a monologue of the interviewee, but in this monologue you can see an interviewer carrying on a conversation. One interview is never like another. Interview in "Locus" is something like an interview in science fiction The Paris Review.

In addition to the interview in the magazine, of course, there are lots of news, obituaries, the results of the year in the February issue, as well as reviews.

"Locus" as it was as remains the most influential magazine in the world of SF and fantasy.

On the Nickel

John Shannon
On the Nickel

Severn House, 2010

Private detective Jack Liffey (the hero of a series of novels) after the prior case is confined to a wheelchair, having lost the gift of speech. Liffey’s friend calls for help, asking to find the fugitive 16-year-old son Conor Lewis. Daughter of the PI Maeve, unbeknownst to his father, takes up the case, playing a young sleuth. The investigation leads her to the Los Angeles area, the Nickel. Soon Maeve herself disappears, walking into the trouble. Liffey himself and his wife, Gloria Ramirez, a policeman, go to save Maeve and runaway youngster Conor.

The novel’s interest lays in that we see the mechanism of slums of Los Angeles. Developers (aka half-gangsters) want to take more and more land. Homeless people live in half-ruins. There even shoes will be stolen from invalid. Small gangsters show persistence and perseverance in the small business. And in this festering sore on the body of Los Angeles a young man who dreams of becoming a musician and a girl who dreams of becoming a detective get there, and he and she both are from good families. Shannon illustrates Nickel’s life not only by the plot twists and individual characters, who live here, but also the statistics at the end of each chapter.

«On the Nickel» is a book for young adults, pretending to be a book for adults. The main characters are maturing children, not Liffey and his wife. Maeve and Conor must fend their lives for themselves, and Liffey comes to the rescue closer to the final, becoming deux ex machina.

Teens will read a book with a great pleasure, adults will be confused by this book.

Vicki Hendricks kindle stories

Vicki Hendricks
Dangerous Sex: Two Stories
Tender Fruit

Self-published e-book, 2011

No one writes neonoir like Vicki Hendricks. Her collection «Florida Gothic Stories» was almost perfect, with one drawback: it has included not all the stories written by the author. A few stories from the anthologies remained uncollected. These stories have since not been republished, but now you can buy them in versions for the Kindle. Three stories, which became the subject of this brief review, are unlikely to be attributed to neonoir, they fit the definition by Hendricks herself – violent erotica.

If the author's noir stories also had enough sex and violence, but the focus was on violence, in the erotic stories the emphasis shifts toward sex. In the strongest story of the three «Tender Fruit» Ronnie is a typical loser, and troubles chase him at every step. If Ronnie’s friend, Don, is ok with the girls, then Ronnie is always a fool. Perpetual loser also wants not just sex, but also a great love. Ronnie does not know how his quest for a unique and desirable one will end. The story is not so much erotic, but there are a tense atmosphere, the inimitable voice of the author, the doomed hero of noir.

The other two stories, «Be Very Afraid» and «Penile Infraction», are less successful, primarily because of the not so strong plot. «Be Very Afraid» is stylistically very rich, but can not stand the seriousness of intent. The story can be read only as a parody of a pornomovie. «Penile Infraction» is a satirical sketch of a strong - by character and by body - woman with a penis.

These stories are not for everyone’s taste, but if you're a fan of Vicki Hendricks, you must read it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two-way Split

Allan Guthrie
Two-way Split

Polygon, 2007

Robin Greaves is a frustrated musician, who became an armed robber. He suspects that his wife is cheating on him with his partner. When private detective shows Greaves the direct evidence of affair, a burglar breaks the detective's nose. Greaves plans to avenge his partner, but before they have to rob a post office, which employs the mother of another hero of the book, Pearce, recently released from prison, where he’ve been for murder. Private eye with a broken nose and his subordinate Kennedy follow Greaves, hoping somehow to revenge. And none of them do not yet know what result the post office robbery will have.

A good book - not just a mystery, but in general any book - can often be identified by its unpredictability. So in «Two-way Split» in the graph «unpredictability» is 100%. How would be another: how can we predict plot in the book if there are three psychopaths (including Greaves’ wife) and two greedy private detectives there? All characters in the book are on the brink. They often despise themselves, but it's strong people, hard people, and with hatred and contempt for themselves, they live in, driving these feelings inward. It is impossible to imagine that Pearce, Greaves and even Kennedy can think like ordinary people. They probably are not under control of the thoughts and feelings, but some pulses in their head: «He gritted his teeth, squeezed his fists. When he closed his eyes, bars of orange flashed behind his lids. Maybe Ailsa was right. Maybe she should be scared of him. Women who were close to him seemed to have a habit of dying ». Guthrie chose the best description of the style for people such as Pearce and Greaves – it is entirely the impulses and movements. Short, abrupt phrases are the linguistic embodiment of such impulses.
Guthrie plays «two-way split» from the title on each of the three main characters of the book. Pierce is broken in half, breaking into a man who loves his mother as a three-year old child and able to selflessly defend the offended, and hard man who can kill with ease. Greaves breaks in half when he has a split personality after he stopes taking prescribed medication. A pair of private detectives, too, is divided in half: if Kennedy is more risky, with feelings, then a detective with a broken nose, as more experienced, finally lost his conscience.

«Two-way Split» is Allan Guthrie's debut novel, and it's hard to believe. The book is so masterfully written, so there is lots of energy here, that it can be seen: the author is a great writer. Very, very good book.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For the Dogs

Kevin Wignall
For the Dogs

Simon & Schuster, 2004

(Full disclaimer: I’ve read this book in Russian translation.)

Unknown assassins shot the whole Hatto family at their home. Only Ella Hatto, daughter of Mark Hatto, vacationing in Italy with her boyfriend, stays alive. When another assasin tries to kill Ella, the girl is saved by hitman Lucas hired by her father. Lucas devotes a safe place to frightened lovers, hoping to get through to Mark Hatto to take further instructions. Found out that his employer is dead, Lucas, conscientious hitman, who also has a daughter of Ella’s age, takes responsibility for her Hatto’s daughter. And when the boyfriend after what had happened breaks up with Ella, she asks Lucas to help her to find the killer of her family and take revenge on him.

I should immediately warn you that if you approach this novel as a realistic one, it can disappoint you. The author does not go into detail, the killings are committed too easily, the police, it seems, can not find not even a criminal, but even their own toothbrush in the morning. But if the novel is read as a parable about revenge, cruelty and punishment, this is a powerful book. At the beginning of the novel Ella and Lucas are the antagonists, the exact opposite: she is an innocent and defenseless girl, he is professional killer, with his own rules, but still a killer. Wignall gradually shows how the essence of Ella and Lucas begin to penetrate each other. Lucas, already burdened with a conscientious and complexes, derives from the girl love for friends, learns the importance of relationships and begins to look at his life from a different angle. Ella, while living with the killer some time, as if passes all human what she has inside to Lucas, becoming more hardened, and all the feelings inside her becoming dull, there is only a desire for revenge. Wignall depicts this transformation as a gradual phenomenon, like a tumor growing inside the human body.

Greed, envy, anger, meanness - it's all filling “For the Dogs”. Sometimes dogs are more human than people - and Kevin Wignall wrote about it this beautiful book.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Seventh Black Book of Horror

The Seventh Black Book of Horror
Ed. by Charles Black

Mortbury Press, 2010

Anthologies, themed or not, almost always is a cat in a bag. If the collection has at least half of successful stories, then this book is successful. And it does not depend on big names on the cover: the same failure can be obtained from an anthology of small press and from large publishing houses. Previous collection edited by Charles Black, The Sixth Black Book of Horror, included high-quality stories, and this year, another anthology is not worse than last year’s one. Nine short stories (and this is bigger part of the book) here are if not masterpieces, then the strong work of the short form most writers wouldn’t be ashamed of. Accordingly, «The Seventh Black Book of Horror» can be called a good anthology.

The trend, which can be seen in the collection this year, is that a number of successful stories here are completely devoid of supernatural elements. They are not horror stories, there is more appropriate definition, and it is not even strange prose, but a wild prose.

Falls into this category, for example, the story of John Llewellyn Probert «It Begins At Home». Paul Reynolds is a photographer on the verge of despair: the family is sitting with no money and is about to be evicted from the house, - he no matter how should get an order from a large firm. But the manager does not like photos of the starving and suffering children - «The child isn't crying enough». Paul does not know what sacrifices he would have to go to get the job. Probert masterfully constructs the story, creating homage to the horrors of the 80s, but not using otherworldly forces. David Williamson's story «Rest in Pieces» could well be in an anthology of crime or neonoir, if the author would change the style of the narrative. This is the story of a pathologist, who develops a daring plan. You can’t read the story in all seriousness because black humor can be seen there a mile away. «Ted's Collection» by Claude Lalumiere can be attributed to the horror; it's just such a wild prose. This is the story of how cruelty and pain replace all the rest of emotions inside the people. Craig Herbertson in his «New Teacher» combined elements of old school horror, crime, dystopia, sprinkling it all with black humor. Biting story.

Joel Lane is as always lyrical. Here he presented with the story «Morning's Echo» about a detective who finds a missing person with the help of dreams. There are of course zombies in the book. In David Riley’s «Romero's Children» cause of dead walking was medicine of immortality. The ones who took the untested drug became zombies. In a story there is an unusual ending, though, this already stands out in a series of colorless zombie stories. The best story in the anthology was «Swell Head» by Stephen Volk (after this story, I sincerely believe that Volk probably is the best storyteller in Britain). It’s a grotesque story about a boy, whose head eventually is growing rapidly in size, and the body remains almost infantile, it is a perfect illustration of the phrase "we are responsible for those who we have tamed." The older brother of big-head freak sacrifices his life for the needs of the giant head. Volk is accurate in detail, and in the end gets an ace from his sleeve.

Do not be afraid of the word "horror" on the cover, it's just a collection of different stories of high quality.


Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer), Noel Tuazon (artist)

Archaia, 2010

Washed-up aging private detective Frank Armstrong unexpectedly receives a client in the face of the local drug lord. He asks to find his missing daughter. Armstrong wants to give up at first, but then sees in this business opportunity to earn money and somehow rehabilitate itself. The only thing that prevents the PI from doing his job decently is a brain tumor. Starting search for the girl with her boyfriend, Armstrong finds him in his own apartment - murdered. There appeares armed mobster hired by the father of the girl, and then suddenly appears disappeared girl, with a gun in her hand. Before Frank manages to do something, he loses consciousness from a brain attack. Thus, turning out between a hospital bed and in the street, leading the investigation, having lost the difference between past and present, Frank saves the gangster’s daughter and unravels the murder of his wife, committed several decades ago.

We have already seen a fair amount of amnesia noir, now we have a new, previously unknown kind – onko-noir. The tumor in Frank’s head gradually kills him, taking away the opportunity to think and live proper life. Detective loses his sense of space and time, not knowing where he is and what year. More frequent attacks lead to Frank coming again and again to the hospital, runs away from there thinking that next attack will definitely be the last for him. Events of past and present have become for detective a single entity. A reader can distinguish them only by art. Noel Tuazon blurs those panels, where the action takes place in the past, and conversely, uses dark lines, if it is present. Tuazon’s style makes this story very old-fashioned: it is a good illustrated pulp-novel, in which you never guess that the action takes place not in the 50s or 60s, but almost in our days. So suddenly you become surprised when there are mobile phones and internet in the book. It is not a believable story; it is a typical PI novel. Much more interesting is how the Fialkov weaves two plot lines in the end, allowing Frank defore the death to correct the mistakes of the past, not allowing history to repeat itself twice.

I should also mention the design of this hardcover (graphic novel was originally released in Kindle-version): between the chapters there are single page insertions, illustrating Frank’s headaches - pain, comparable to the shot in the head; in the end there are sketches, interviews with the creators and bonus story about Frank’s pat.

Fialkov and Tuazon in tandem have created an excellent novel.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Inherent Vice

Thomas Pynchon
Inherent Vice

Vintage, 2010

The ex-girlfriend of a private detective from Los Angeles Doc Sportello, long disappeared from his life, then suddenly appears, telling him of a plot to kidnap a local landlord billionaireWolfmann. A little later, Doc gets the client named Tariq Khalil, who asked to find Glen Charlock, one of the bodyguards of the billionaire. In search of Charlock Sportello turns out on one of the Wolfmann’s developments, where the investigator is beaten to unconscious. LA police detective, known as Bigfoot, later tells Doc that Charlock is killed and Wolfmann disappeared without a trace. In a nightclub musician Coy Harlingen tells Doc about the existence of schooner "Golden Fang", suspected of bringing mysterious goods into port. On the same schooner Shasta and Wolfmann has been seen. On the day of death, Charlock changed shifts with a Puck Beaverton. A possible reason for the disappearance of a billionaire is a version that Wolfmann wanted to atone for his sins by donations. Toward the middle of the novel plot becomes more and more twisted.

While reading this book you feel yourself the director Hawkes, who during the filming of «The Big Sleep» called Chandler and asked who had killed such and such a character, and you want to call Pynchon. Toward the end of the book the story just becomes cloudy, but you can’t call it a book’s flaw. If Pynchon would write only stylized detective story about the private sleuths, he would have been hissed and scattered with the eggs. But Pynchon writes novel-portrait of America of late '60s, a time when all from young to old smoked pot, when psychedelia rapidly penetrated into all aspects of life, when, no less, appeared the first beginnings of the Internet. All investigation takes place in a cloud of marijuana smoke, and no wonder that a hero and a reader lost in there. It is interesting to look at how Sportello as a hero of so-called PI novel. Doc is not Lew Archer, he does not help crumbling families, does not rake up the clients’ past, excavating old mysteries: in the novel he in fact had not a client at all, he goes on a wave, om an infinite groove. Dock is not like Philip Marlowe, Sportello is not a knight, he does not even have to solve a moral dilemma. He's too passive. But Doc is not a nameless detective from stories and novels of Hammett. He doesn’t have meanness in himself, doesn’t want to capture an extra piece. Groove, is what Doc needs.

Smoke oozes from the pages of «Inherent Vice». And this smoke smells of separation, pain, and bit pot. Yes, the pot, too.


Doug Johnstone

Faber and Faber, 2011

Four thirty-something-year-old friends go to spend the weekend at a remote Scottish island Islay. Adam is obsessed with whiskey snobish loser who wants to show the rest of them the place, which produces the best whiskey in Scotland and the friends all together can taste all whiskeys. However, the purpose of the trip for Adam is not only fun, he also wants to ask his friend Roddy to loan him million pounds to buy a deserted place on Islay to start there the manufacture of whiskey. At the bar four friends meet with Molly and her sister Ash. Molly is a guide there and remembers Adam from his previous visits to the island. Adam would not mind to start a relationship with Molly, but there is one problem - Molly's ex-husband, a psychopath and at the same time policeman Joe, who makes chaos on the island. When Roddy refuses to invest money in Adam’s idea - «Adam, you're one of life's losers, you always have been and you always will be. You're almost forty and still working in a shop, for fuck's sake. You've spent your whole life being petrified of taking a chance on anytning. That doesn't necessarily makes you a bad person, but it sure as shit doesn't make you the kind of person who runs a successful business either. You never take risks, it's that simple, so you'll always be one of the also-rans. You're a beta male through and through», - Adam gets mad and starts to insult Roddy in the car. Adam beats Roddy, and the latter loses control and crashes the car into a ditch. And this accident is only the beginning of the horrors that four friends and Molly will see.

Do not be confused by such a beginning, in which the original part appears only the presence of whiskey, but otherwise - like a mix of two dozen not the best horror movies. This book is the highest grade. It really is a horror without supernatural elements, and brilliant novel of black humor, and an essay on "how I spent the autumn", and 290-page sobering. «Smokeheads» has all the qualities of a good bottle of whiskey. This bottle hits you over the head so that long you can not recover, but at the same time, this bottle is not an empty container, within the novel - burning moisture. Johnston did not write a regular cliched novel with psycho cops, cocaine sniffing, burning people alive, but a book about the people on the edge, about that hangover happens not only from whiskey, that some events in life will not be able to forget, even get drunk in trash. For the loser Adam this trip to the island could become a turning point in his life. It has become to him but not as the way as he expected it. Roddy is more flippant, he is thinking less and doing more. Th most courageous there is Molly, it’s stranger, that Johnston describes her very sparingly, not letting even suggest what she experienced after what had happened.

«Smokeheads» is certainly a page-turner with the brilliant dialogues. Reducing the description to a minimum, Johnston practically with dialogues only reveals the characters. Gallons of black humor help to move rushing story. Convulsive laughing and absorbing «Smokeheads» to the bottom, to the end of the novel you at the same time are getting drunk from pleasure and sobering from what’s happening in the book.

It is recommended to drink this novel at one sitting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Razor Wrapped in Silk

R.N. Morris
A Razor Wrapped in Silk

Faber and Faber, 2010

1870. From school for poor children, working by day at the plant, several teenagers go missing, among them Mitka Krasotkin, favourite pupil of school founder Maria Petrovna. Maria Petrovna, the society lady and daughter of a wealthy father, concernes that the worst thing could happen to children, and appeales for help to Porfiry Petrovich (the same one investigator from Dostoevsky's novel). While Porfiry Petrovitch and his assistant, Pavel Pavlovich Virginsky are just beginning to look for missing children, when in Naryskin Palace during the theatre performance in the dressing room a society lady Elena Filippovna Polenova, recently engaged to Naryshkin Jr., has been murdered. The servants have seen former lover of the deseased Captain Mizinchikov running from the dressing room, smeared in blood, and the sister of Elena, Aglaia Filippovna, first sees a dead sister, and from what she’d seen she becomes ill, falling into unconsciousness. Police search for Mizinchikov and find in his apartment love letters between him and the deseased. Elena Filippovna asked Mizinchikov and then Naryshkin to kill her, but both denied it. Porfiry Petrovitch begins to doubt that the killer is Mizinchikov, but finds that the missing children and murder of a society lady somehow link.

Porfiry Petrovitch, moved from "Crime and Punishment" on pages of novels by Morris becomes a hero in already the third book of the British writer, and this is the final case for the investigator. Porfiry Petrovich is no longer master of interrogation one by one, but the master of the "field" work - he examines the headless bodies, pressed the dirty police to nail, almost dares the Emperor himself. A look at this novel from Russia, of course, will differ from the view from the UK, but we have to admit, despite some factual errors (such as the introduction on the novel the tsar, when the Tsars have been "renamed" to the Emperors), Morris caught the atmosphere of St. Petersburg of the second half of the XIX century. There are also a carriage, and fog, and the western industrialists, and secret police - and the level of authenticity is pretty high. Even the Socialists, and they have played their part in «A Razor Wrapped in Silk».

What did not work in Morris’s novel, it is to move the style of Dostoevsky to Morris' novel. Where Dostoevsky has verbosity, but such one that you cannot throw a word from a sentence, Morris has redundancy:

«The painting before him showed the skeletal structure of a dilapidated amphitheatre, golden in the light of a dying sun. The few isolated human figures were dwarfed by the great stone remains, which stood to remind them of the vanity of human ambition. It answered his souls's craving for an irrevocable solitude. Sometimes he believed that it was only the presence of other people, with their inconvenient desires and clamorous demands, that prevented him from being happy».

This style slows down the action, though Morris is very good at plot. The author hides a few aces up his sleeve, balancing between the historic police detective and the so-called «locked room mystery». The secret police wedged in the investigation, and one of the suspects became the son of the emperor, even, these surprises, perhaps, brighten a bad combination of style and plot.

The book will especially please those who have never read Dostoevsky.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Aimee Bender
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Windmill Books, 2011

The story of Rosie Edelstein and her family begins when the girl at the age of nine opens a possibility to feel during the meal the feelings and emotions of a person who prepared the food. Throughout the novel we will go the way with Rosie aged nine to twenty-two years old Rosie.

An unexpected gift (or vice versa, the curse) appears when Rosie eats a piece of lemon cake, prepared by her mother. In the cake the girl feels emptiness and desire to be loved. Rosie's mother works in the office, but after a while finds a job in the studio for the production of designer furniture. Rosie's father is a decent family man. A favorite in the family is brother of Rosie, Joseph. Joseph is a good student, steeped in science, but he speaks almost no one, he does not have friends, sometimes even the mother has to ask him to go for a walk.

Rosie is initially discouraged by her new feelings; she can not understand what it is. Food becomes her uncomfortable. The girl tries to explain something to the parents - something wrong with the food - but they blamed on the strangeness of her imagination. Rosie also explaines about the gift to best (and only) friend of Joseph George and George promises to help her.

This is a family story with elements of fantasy, fairy tale and satire on modern society leaves a pleasant aftertaste. Fantastic premise - an opportunity to feel the feelings of the people through food - in general is small and not too original, but the whole story is written so deeply, and the plot is built almost perfectly that delight quickens your breath. The book is successful because of unique style of the author, who managed to create a volumetric image of Rosie. The girl sees the world with naïve look, uncomplicated with adult problems and prejudices. Suddenly awakened gift plunges Rosie into the world of before unknown feelings and emotions. It’s interesting as the way a child sees her family from within, as the daughter notices the characters of their parents, as it reasonably relates to family problems - the gift of a great deal had taught her. «The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake» is also a book in a special genre called "freak family." Here is the ability of each family member, but not all of them open in their entirety. Rosie's grandfather knew people through the smells - and walked with a clothespin on his nose. Rosie's father had never been in the hospital, because he's afraid to go there: his gift has something to do with medicine, but the father does not want his ability to open. Joseph literally merges with the furniture and has gone forever from this world.

Bender saturated her novel with feelings, so it is impossible to remain indifferent to Rosie and her family. In the second half of the book, however, the gift of Rosie goes by the wayside, and even looks like excess. Bender concludes that even feelings in the world today will eventually be expressed in material goods. People are so baked onto the world of things that, if some kind of strange things appear, it knocks them out of the material world, they are lost and do not know how to behave. For example, Rosie's father is afraid to open his gift, because a gift can prevent him from working and earning money. Rosie's mother does not receive warmth and love in the family, and she more and more time spends creating things.

It's really sad book, you’re feeling like you’ve eaten a piece of lemon cake, cooked by Rosie’s mother.

Monday, July 4, 2011

8 Pounds

Chris F. Holm
8 Pounds

Self-published e-book, 2010

Chris F. Holm’s self-published collection includes eight stories, most of which has a solid weight, making the book, despite its name, much heavier than eight pounds. Holm writes in different genres: horror, modern neonoir, so-called "dark fiction." The word "dark" is suited the best to describe the entire collection of short stories.

Theme of childhood is very close to the author, and two story, opening and closing, are built on this theme. In the «Seven Days of Rain» in town for several days it rains non-stop, washing away everything in its path - including the secrets of the past. The protagonist of the story Eddie and his friends, when they were kids, played together, when their friend Timmy had an accident. The boys hid the body so that no one has found it. But the terrible flood washes away the remains of a body of the boy. One of his friends invites Eddie to go to the police and tell about what happened. But the secret of childhood days is even grimmer.

In the closing story «The World Behind» adult narrator at hot night can not sleep and remembers what happened to him twenty years ago, when he was a boy. His past keeps secret. The neighborhood boys teased him and mocked him. The boy began to seek refuge in the woods, where he meets a strange man who helps the boy to change his life forever.

«The Toll Collectors» tells the story of Ray McDaniel, the man of violence. For the first time in a fight in a bar, McDaniel felt a passion for violence and later went to work for bad people doing dirty jobs. For the cruelty they paid him good money. But here's the killer flees, hoping to start life over again, but go from himself is not easy, and the past catch up with McDaniel in the most unexpected way.
The best in the collection are the story with the title “8 Pounds”. It's brutal, exploding story about two best friends - and better to write no more about this story, so not to spoil the great fun.

In addition to excellent stories an advantage can be attributed, and it’s the price: it is not 8 pounds, it’s much much less.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The White City

Elizabeth Bear
The White City

Subterranean Press, 2010

The immortal vampire detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa, together with his companions – court - Lady Abigail Irene and Phoebe Smith, at the beginning of the XX century is coming to Moscow to heal wounds, but almost immediately gets caught up in the new plot. De Ulloa seeks a meeting with the artist Irina Stephanova, which was close to de Ulloa’s friend Jack Priest before Priest’s death, but instead the detective finds in Irina’s apartment a murdered woman's body. Not having to leave the room, the vampire is caught in the flat by local police. Learning of famous detective’s arrival in Moscow, the police receives help from de Ulloa in the investigation. In addition to fresh crimes, the vampire has yet to unravel the six years old case, abandoned because of corruption among the capital's police. The detective will have to face the thing much older than himself.

Bear breaks the time fabric of this novella (short novel) into small pieces, alternating stories about Jack Priest and his acquaintance with Irina Stepanova and immortal vampire’s seeking the murderer. In the chapter about Jack, we meet with a small circle of Russian artists, painters and sculptors. Gradually the picture opens the relationship between Jack and de Ulloa and Irina. Moscow, which the author devotes much attention, has been described here with all the care and respect to detail. In addition, plot takes place in an alternate universe, which differs from ours not only in the presence of vampires, but in the geopolitical situation.

Mystery is masterfully built here, in the finale we meet with even greater mystery.
Bewilderment after reading the book is caused just by awkward dialogues. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Bear was trying to combine the style of the transfer of Russian and English speech. The dialogues sound unnaturally, sometimes entering into confusion.

I am glad that Russia has become the scene of this exciting novella.

Collected Fictions by Gordon Lish

Gordon Lish
Collected Fictions

OR Books, 2010

The collection by Gordon Lish «Collected Fictions» includes 106 pieces of his prose. This is exactly fictions, prose pieces, which can not be called short stories, as well as diary entries, blog posts. You can still pick up a comparison: anecdotes. Collection of anecdotes, as ridiculous it may sound.

Despite the complexity (and sometimes transcendent) Lish’ fictions are the very oral stories, excerpts from life that can be called anecdotes. It may be objected that people do not talk like Lish writes, so his stories can not belong to the oral genre, transferred to paper. People probably do not talk like that, but Lish, better known as an editor, not a writer, does.

«My wife says, «Look at you. Just look at you. How can you look like that? Why don’t you take a good look at yourself? Look at me, don’t you have any idea of what you look like? What do you think people are going to think when they look at you? Tell me, how can you go around looking like that? Do you know what you look like? You couldn’t conceivably know what you look like. Who would believe anyone who look like this? I cannot believe what you look like. It is hard for me to grasp it, a man who go around looking like what you look like. What is the matter with you, don’t you know what you look like? You probably don’t have the first idea of what you look like. You act like you are completely oblivious to what you look like. Don’t you realize people are looking at you? Have you no conception of the fact that there are people who are looking at you? Why are you so utterly unaware of the fact that you cannot go around looking like whatever you happen to feel like looking like? Take a look at yourself. Just go ahead and just take just one good look at yourself.»»

Approximately the prose of such saturation fills this book. Lish does not give words to relax, and not just words - the whole proposals. Lish in his monologues looks like a sort of carefree old man, at times even seems silly, immersed in the everyday stuff. But this is a sham, because the author is working with a word, scrolls language through a meat grinder, and there is no question about any relaxation.
There is no relaxation for the reader as well. To read Lisha is like to comb a corn: an unpleasant, sometimes painful, but sometimes what a pleasure.

The beauty of this book is not on the surface, but it is worth reading all 600 pages to dig up this beauty.

(Books published by OR Books are not sold in stores and are available exclusively through the publisher’s website.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Blood of the Wicked

Leighton Gage
The Blood of the Wicked

Soho, 2008 (hardcover\paperback)\self-published e-book

When Dom Bishop Felipe Antunes landed in helicopter in order to address the assembled crowd, he has been killed by an unknown sniper. The Director of Brazilian Federal Police sends to Cascatas, where the murder occurred, the Inspector Mario Silva, and his nephew, Hector Costa, to investigate the important case - «You can't just murder a bishop. This is Brazil, for Christ's sake. Brazil, not some little Central American pesthole». A murder of a priest does not end there. A few months earlier in the same town there have been several murders of local farmers, and after Silva’s arrival in town someone kidnapes the son of the biggest landlord, who keeps in his pocket the entire region. Silva and his nephew also understand that the investigation will have to rely only on themselves, the local police led by Colonel Ferraz is mired in corruption and carry out the orders of moneybags. Silva gets caught in the middle, when long-standing enmity between those who own the land and those who believe that the land is owned illegally flares up.

Leighton Gage plunges us into the abyss of Brazilian life from the very first pages. The author is unlikely to deliberately trying to shock the reader, showing what the Brazil as it is, Gage just does not cover defects. And there are a lot of defects. The priests enjoy boys, trading their bodiesbody. Police officer to conceal the crime is ready to kill at least ten people - and he knows that he will go unpunished. At night you can not stop at a red light: you can be simply pulled out of the car, your wife raped, and you get to look at it. There you can be fired if they see how you talk to the police. Gage knows inside out of Brazil and he is not particularly optimistic: no matter how many criminals are caught, new ones will appear and reappear, like weeds.

The inspector Silva, remaining relatively calm throughout the book, has an interesting fate, he decided to become a police officer after a couple of young bastards killed his parents and the police did not even look for criminals, telling Silva quickly forget about what had happened.

Gage has written not only (and not so much) the social novel, but also a mystery of high quality. The author has placed under one cover a thriller with lots of violence with a very old-fashioned detective story. In the middle of the novel, these components do not look very organic, and despite the high passions, the author and his characters are like a little indifferent to what is happening. Let's hope in the next books in the series Inspector Silva will show himself as more emotional character.

Acts of Violence

Ryan David Jahn
Acts of Violence

Pan Books, 2010

Ryan David Jahn's debut novel by is based on real events that happened in New York in the 60s. Katrina Marino came back from work at night, when at the yard of her home she was attacked by a maniac with a knife. After leaving the girl bleeding on the pavement, a man has gone. Several neighbors hear cries for help, but none of them do not even call the police and do not go down to help a wounded girl. All the neighbors have their problems, bleeding neighbor is not on first place in their list of priorities. A young man discusses with his dying of an incurable disease mother draft in the army. Two married couples exchange partners in order to experience new feelings in sex. A black man comes up with a plan to hide the fact that his wife hit by a car a child. A man wants to commit suicide. While the neighbors themselves are on the verge of a nervous breakdown and Katrina is crawling on the pavement, hoping to reach her own flat, the killer realizes that his job is not finished and returnes to the scene.

Jahn in his novel uses a narrative technique, which successfully at one time director Alejandro González Iñárritu employed in his films: short chapters tell stories of each of the characters from the victim to the murderer, and the reader is waiting for a dozen different fates finally interwine, but this does not happen. All the neighbors, as well as the victim and the murderer, are united only by one house and one night, but there is no explosive effect, linking all the characters. The book's characters are linked not by action, and inaction, non-action. But these "good neighbors" (this is the American title of the book) won’t have to regret what happened. The events of that night will quickly erase from their memory. This did not happen to them, this happened to someone else. Jahn has enough skill and intelligence to not teach a reader a morality, the author is already reticent. He takes away all the unnecessary from the text, leaving the pain, fear and darkness.

In this gloomy book, Jahn shows how much damage can bring inaction.