but getting a really good and unexpected one is even better, the latest instance of this was on Friday when I opened up a small package (forwarded from my New York address) that turned out to be Bust, the noir collaboration by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr that will be released in May by Hard Case Crime. It's very violent and very funny, more Starr than Bruen I'd say but with the occasional unmistakable Bruen touch (the Irish hitman is all Bruen, as is the NYPD detective whose child has Down Syndrome and the one-off old indented four-adjective thing as a wink to the faithful and most of all the epigraphs).
The epigraphs make it clear how playfully self-conscious the whole enterprise must have been; of course it's impossible to know if something really was enjoyable to write, I enjoy almost everything I write but occasionally have to sweat something out in blood & grit my teeth afterwards when some reader says "Oh, it must have been so fun to write, I can really tell you were enjoying yourself," but in this case surely it really was a very good game for them fitting in all the (what will I call them?) peer-group noir writers. Charlie Williams, Ray Banks, Charlie Stella, Vicki Hendricks, Victor Gischler, etc. etc.: they're all here (even Charlie Stella's Average White Band gets a shout-out), I don't think not knowing this inside stuff would mar the reader's experience but it undoubtedly adds a fillip of something. Very fun.
My only complaint, admittedly completely arbitrary and unfair, is that the picture on the cover--a red-tinted image of the adulterous couple within the round lens of a camera, very appropriate for the book's theme and plot and classic noir-pulp cover art in the Hard Case style--strangely reminds me of the red uterus in which tiny-upside-down-naked-Steve-Coogan is suspended in Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story.
Anyway, look out for this book when it's published in May, it's very enjoyable. (And in the meantime you can whet your appetite by reading some Bruen, maybe The White Trilogy or one of the Jack Taylor novels. Ken Bruen is one of my favorite writers in the world, the appeal of his fiction is powerful--irresistible to me--it's got a great combination of intellect and humanity and unbelievably perverted violence, his books aren't like anyone else's. I've only read one of Jason Starr's books, Cold Caller, and was impressed with his skill and style but almost physically pained by the unlikeableness of the main character--it's very funny, though, if you like that extremely dark thing. I think I must be a sentimentalist at heart, really I like the noir heroes who are secretly soft-hearted and mess everything up by accident rather than because they are morally contemptible.)