Saturday, May 25, 2013

Point Doom

Dan Fante
Point Doom

Harper Perennial, 2013

JD Fiorella is a former private detective. Now he is 46, he lives in Los Angeles with his elderly mother, attends AA meetings and suffers from nightmares and headaches. JD’s father was a Hollywood screenwriter and a loser, but who left a million dollars in insurance. The son changed a lot of jobs, for a long time he lived in New York, where he worked as a private detective (read - a hired muscle) for the former FBI agent, but after one incident with the Russian mafia Fiorella was forced to flee from New York to Los Angeles. Then he went on a binge and then his nightmares began.
Now JD is off the sauce, and his buddy from AA meetings Woody even finds Fiorella a job – a used car salesman in the Toyota salon. But Fiorella soon finds Woody killed and decides to find the killer and avenge the death of his friend.

What a wonderful novel, and how many flaws it has! Dan Fante, son of novelist John Fante, and, importantly, a good novelist at that, takes the best from his father: hard realistic writing, attention to detail and tenacious authentic dialogue. «Point Doom» even begins in the manner of so-called realistic novel. A former alcoholic and a loser is experiencing a lot of problems and sees no way out of his dreary existence. Applying for a job of a used car salesman is right from the classics of American literature of the last century. Voice of JD Fiorella is a breathy monologue of a disaffected man who will soon turn fifty. JD is surrounded by losers like him, the former TV stars, now forgotten by all, and drunkards who are hated by even their own children (drunkurd themselves), and JD has no friends. Even about murdered Woody Fiorella realizes that Woody was not just another buddy from AA, but a true friend, only after the death of Woody.

This bitter story about a former detective with drinking problems has in itself also classic hard-boiled detective story, where the main character takes revenge for the death of a friend. Fante immediately adds elements of noir, when it becomes clear that someone decides to spoil protagonist’s life.

Needless to say that all this is read in one breath, while in the gaps you still manage to savour episodes and dialogues. But the closer to the finale, the less enthusiasm I had. Chapters in the third person with a story of a serial killer are too mechanically written, there is no charm of Fiorella’s voice. And the serial killer as a plot element reduces the level of confidence. While usually the villain is a Nazi, there it is a victim of Auschwitz becomes violent maniac. The killer, of course, is very unusual, but be that as it may, he is a serial killer who is always devoid of serious reasons to murder. And it looks funny: a detective against 80-year-old serial killer victim of Auschwitz. The last third of the book reads too much like a mediocre thriller.

Despite its shortcomings, Point Doom is a very talented book. It is hardly a serial killer novel, and rarely a book does not cause rejection, when there is a serial killer in it. For the first half the novel gets A, for the second - C, and as a result it’s B-.

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