Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#40: Slammer by Allan Guthrie

A young prison guard is tormented by fellow guards and inmates alike, ending in an explosive breakout, in Allan Guthrie's relentless noir Slammer.

I am a fan of Guthrie's hard-boiled, sardonic Scottish crime fiction, those of which that I've read are a reverent throwback to an earlier era.  This one features a classic unreliable narrator--I'm not sure if that is a noir sub-category, but it should be--and a very Cornell Woolrich-style downbeat ending (one that maybe goes on a half step too long).  It is very tough-minded in the Jim Thompson tradition and is probably not for delicate tastes, especially in some harrowing and graphic prison scenes.

Guthrie himself sent this to me for my beloved Kindle, for which I was grateful (though I would have probably bought it anyway).  I was hooked right away and read it quickly.  Recommended for noir fans and those seeking a change from American crime writing.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

#39: Under the Bright Lights by Daniel Woodrell

A mostly honest cop and his mostly crooked brother, who owns a local bar, deal with murder and mayhem in Daniel Woodrell's Under the Bright Lights.

Woodrell later wrote Winter's Bone, which became a very worthwhile film and seems to have generated some interest in his older work, including this reissue of his first novel. 

Although he is frequently compared to Cormac McCarthy now, this early outing is more James Lee Burke, with colorful characters in a moody, corrupt small town in Louisiana  surrounded by foreboding swamps (which naturally play into the denouement).

I think one of the more interesting elements in the story, about the death of a prominent politician that then reveals secrets best buried, was that the cycle of crime and punishment played out through to the end with little influence from the protagonist.  It gave the story a larger noir feel, like some of Cornell Woolrich's better work.

I bought this at a goodbye price from a nearly empty Borders on the verge of closing as "The Bayou Trilogy," with two more novels featuring the main characters forthcoming. 

A good read and my first foray into Daniel Woodrell; I will definitely read the others.