“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
This Week We’re Reading … The Vengeful Virgin and The Wounded and The Slain
“I knew I’d never get enough of her. She was straight out of hell.” We’re having a bit of a Hard Case Crime binge this week, folks – first up is Gil Brewer’s The Vengeful Virgin, first published in 1958 and a cracker in the mould of Brewer’s patented amour fou, in which TV salesman-on-the-make Jack hooks up with Shirley, a 17-year-old chafing with frustration at having to take care of her rich, bedridden stepfather (“She looked hot enough to catch fire, but too lazy to do anything but just lie there and smoke.”). Delivered in Brewer’s precise, deadpan tone, the best laid plans of vengeful virgins and men quickly spiral out of control as one murder leads to another and Jack finds himself split between the allure of a vast pile of cash and the psychotic charms of a woman who should really be entered under the dictionary definition of ‘all or nothing’. Cain meets Jim Thompson, reckoned Anthony Boucher in the New York Times, and we’re not here to argue. Meanwhile, David Goodis, he of the novel-length suicide notes, sets The Wounded and The Slain (1955) in Jamaica, where James and Cora Bevan have gone in an attempt to rescue their marriage, a shell just hollow enough to accommodate alcoholism, self-loathing, simmering sexual dissatisfaction and bleak thoughts of ending it all. Naturally, Goodis avoids the palm-fringed beaches and sultry sunsets, dragging his characters into the slums of Kingston and face-to-face with their worst nightmares. “He did it to himself. He brought it on by slow degrees and then faster degrees and finally it blew up in his face and knocked him for a loop. For many loops. For endless loops. To send him sailing far away to some dizzy, goofy place where every day is Halloween.” You like your noir dark and psychologically twisted? The Wounded and The Slain is a black, bloody corkscrew.