Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Big Nowhere

By James Ellroy

This was so good that it catapulted Ellroy to the top of my noir detective author list, alongside the original and best Raymond Chandler. The two authors are very different from each other, not least in how they structure a story. Chandler is smooth, offering a stream lined narrative, uncorrupted and genuine. His story's feel like they were written in the period, which they mostly were, so they reflect the period in ways Ellroy's don't. Ellroy by comparison lays on his story's with a shovel, unafraid of making a great bloody mess, like some bleeding lasagne filled with body parts and corruption his novels take longer to chew through, but they taste really good!

'The Big Nowhere' also benefits from hindsight in that the social mores of the 1940-50's don't apply to a contemporary author and Ellroy can tell stories in ways that Chandler, Hammet and Macdonald couldn't. Mickey Spillane is probably the old school author who comes closest, but Ellroy makes Spillane look like he was singing nursery rhymes. Like Mosley, Ellroy goes for the jugular, but unlike Mosley, he doesn't pull his punches. Reading Ellroy you can feel the blood spattering across your face and smell the putrefaction when a long dead corpse turns up.

'The Big Nowhere' deals with so many plot lines that to summarize is to lose the essence of the story. Unlike the previous novel in the LA quartet, TBN is not written in the first person, so here the multiple plot lines get really convoluted, but it works anyway. I certainly didn't have any problem following the story. I'm almost inclined to give this one five stars...



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Morlock Night
By KW Jeter

I was hoping this sequel to HG Wells 'The Time Machine' would be something akin to a Michael Moorcock novel, don't ask me why. There was something about the premise that made me think of Moorcock, and who knows, maybe KW Jeter is MM under a false flag? I doubt it though. Though this story features a steam powered Atlantean submarine in an underground sea below London, indicating the author has at least got some interesting idea's, the execution of describing those idea's was painfully wooden. Thankfully its a short book!


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The Arctic Event
By Robert Ludlum and James H. Cobb

This is one of those American adventure thrillers, in the vein of Clive Cussler, where weaponry is accorded greater interest than character, villains are cardboard cut outs and women are either Gorgons or cut from the pages of Vogue (and then given lavish weaponry).

I actually didn't mind the story; a TU4 is discovered crashed on a remote island some where in Canada's frozen north and oops, its not only loaded with two tons of weaponized anthrax, but contains a deadly secret that could potentially blow the lid off the post Cold War coziness between the USA and Russia. Can you guess what that might be? I couldn't believe the plot twist would be so bleeding obvious, but it was. I was expecting the looming 'secret' to be a device to deflect the readers attention but the only surprise was that there was no surprise.

The best thing about the novel is the above picture, by an Australian illustrator which it inspired, and which could be cropped to make a great wrap-around illustration for the book. Too bad it wasn't. The illustration on my copy was so dull that I refuse to post it.

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