Saturday, December 1, 2007

Book Review: Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone (2006)

The latest country noir from Daniel Woodrell. Less the story of Ree Dolly than a portrait of her inbred Ozark community. This community is horribly memorable, but the novel's plot is ultimately too thin to sustain narrative tension. Grade: C

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Book Review: Seymour Shubin, Witness to Myself (2006)

The first half of Witness to Myself is very good. The protagonist knows that, years ago, he assaulted a girl--but did he kill her? Seymour Shubin does a nice job of ratcheting up the narrative tension as we eventually learn the answer. The second half is substantially weaker, in part because the same sense of drama is never there. But the novel's most serious flaw is its bizarre POV: The story is narrated by the protagonist's cousin and childhood buddy, but he narrates as if he has access to the protagonist's every thought and sensory experience. In other words, it's as if the protagonist is narrating the novel--but he's not. As I was reading, I assumed that this arrangement would eventually have some kind of pay-off, but it never does. It's a weird choice by Shubin that serves only to distract. Grade: C-

Monday, October 1, 2007

Book Review: Richard Powell, Say It with Bullets (1953)

Noirboiled by the numbers: A man has been shot by one of five friends, but he doesn't know which one, so he must track them down one at a time to find out whodunit. Throw in a good-looking woman, a plot twist or two, and there you go. The result, in this case, is noirboiled without any real sense of menace. Cornell Woolrich might have written Say It with Bullets if someone had given him a heavy dose of Prozac. Grade: C+

Friday, August 17, 2007

Book Review: Stephen King, The Colorado Kid (2005)

On rare, unpleasant occasions, I read a novel so bad that I feel angry while I am reading it, and this, unfortunately, was one of those occasions. This postmodern crime novel managed to sneak into the Hard Case Crime series because it was written by Stephen King, and anything with Stephen King's name on it will pay your bills. But this is postmodern-lite drivel at its worst--a novel whose point is the fact that it has no point because life sometimes has no discernible point (profound, right?)--and to top it off, the characters are precious and annoying. I certainly do not begrudge HCC paying its bills, but it concerns me that (for a long while, at least) The Colorado Kid had outsold all other HCC titles combined. I wonder, how many readers who might have gone on to read the HCC titles by Charles Williams, Gil Brewer, et al., were scared off by Stephen King? Grade: F-