Friday, August 28, 2020

#45: Hanging at Pulpit Rock by Lee Leighton

 A greenhorn deputy is put in charge of a tough frontier town when the rugged sheriff goes on a three day fishing trip in Lee Leighton's Hanging at Pulpit Rock.

Leighton was actually Wayne Overholser, a well-regarded western writer whose books I see everywhere, though I had never knowingly dipped into one.  I actually started reading this for the odd cover, which features an angry man slipping a hangman's noose around another man who is smiling enigmatically.  There is a hanging, as per the title, but there isn't any smiling.

Leighton's plot is a cut above, with interesting characters and situations.  Almost right away a murder and alleged rape happens, and the greenhorn deputy proves out to be the fastest gun anyone has seen, tested by any number of owlhoots.  The crooked town leadership doesn't help as a rampaging lynch mob leads to a trial by fire for some of the more upstanding citizens.

I enjoyed this western quite a bit, and would look for more from Overholser/Leighton.  I got this as part of a big lot of western books I was more interested in from eBay but read this one first.  A good find for western fans.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

#44: Dark Times in the City by Gene Kerrigan

Not long out of prison after a fight that went wrong, Danny Callaghan impulsively jumps in during an attempted shooting at his local pub, inadvertently putting himself in the middle of a Dublin gang war he doesn't want a part of in Gene Kerrigan's Dark Times in the City.

Kerrigan writes a propulsive, sardonic crime story that is full of satisfying beats.  About two-thirds through he offers a lengthy flashback that sets up the violent finale, a nice bit of narrative style.

Dark times indeed, as the final chapters leave no characters unscathed, and only a handful alive.

Kerrigan is an Irish journalist with a couple of crime novels to his name; his knowledge of Irish politics and contemporary history plays no small role in the storytelling.  This is a very self-assured outing, and I would look for more from him.

I received this from World Noir, a part of Europa Editions, and read it quickly.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

#43: Boxes by Pascal Garnier

 A man slowly unraveling after the disappearance of his wife moves to their newly-purchased country home, only to fall into the circle of a strange neighbor, in Pascal Garnier's Boxes.

Garnier was a French author of bleak, unpleasant noirs, often made more palatable with surreal humor.  This one has a fair amount of humor and is light on the noir, with any sort of crime not really materializing until the final chapters of the novel.

What mystery there is centers around the neighbor, a fragile, pale woman with the overprotective older friend of her deceased father hovering nearby and a lot of unanswered questions--if only our protagonist could keep his wits about him long enough to answer them.

More a study of mental unraveling than a crime novel, Garnier still writes with a speed and wit that makes his writing readable for the discerning.

This is the final novel in a collection I purchased titled Gallic Noir Volume 2.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

#42: The Blurry Years by Eleanor Kriseman

 A teenager comes of age in the shadow of an alcoholic mother in Eleanor Kriseman's debut The Blurry Years.

The young woman lives on the fringes of Florida society, and dips in and out of various dangerous situations; an ill-advised road trip with her mother to Oregon begins to tip the scales in her favor, but their return to Florida leads to the breaking point.

Although I didn't think Kriseman's novel broke any new ground, I liked the storytelling, with a good feel for time and place.  The characters are complex and the novel ends with a respite of sorts, but with no easy answers.  I'm curious to see what Kriseman would write next.

This novel was sent to me by Two Dollar Radio, and I read it quickly.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

#41: Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by Dorthe Nors

 Minna loses a lover via text message, and then finds herself adrift in every aspect of her life, in Danish writer Dorthe Nors' novella Minna Needs Rehearsal Space.

Nors' slender outing is packed with both whimsy and melancholy, as Minna navigates interpersonal challenges, including various frenemies and their families.  Minna eventually tries to run away from it all, but perhaps runs towards a better future.

Minna Needs Rehearsal Space is a fast read, but actually a bit of a difficult read, as it is written in an unusual, choppy style.  I believe Nors was trying to reflect both the order, and encroaching disorder, of the protagonist's mind, but its single-sentence paragraphs, often starting with "Minna does etc.", is an unusual literary device, to put it lightly.

However, I enjoyed Nors' storytelling and am interested in her other novels in translation.

I bought this from Amazon and read it quickly.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

#40: Go, Lovely Rose by Jean Potts

A sour old housekeeper is pushed down the basement stairs, and a dissolute young man becomes the prime suspect--much to the dismay of his older, protective sister--in Jean Potts' Go, Lovely Rose.

I didn't know anything about Potts or the novel before picking it up from Stark House Press, one of my favorite publishers, who seems dedicated to bringing lost noir out of obscurity.  This one actually won the Edgar for best first novel in 1954 and has unjustifiably fallen off of the radar.

This is a smart, funny novel that colorfully paints the characters and their small-town life.  Potts writes in a steady amount of coded subtext that makes it of continued interest to contemporary readers.  

Eccentric characters add value, including the young man's oddball high school girlfriend, the housekeeper's equally dour twin sister, the scheming ex-husband of the housekeeper, and a somewhat melancholy and love-stricken town doctor.

A welcome surprise, and extremely enjoyable.  Recommended for fans of classic mysteries.