Monday, May 08, 2006

The hardboiled wonderland

of Charlie Huston has had me in thrall this weekend: I've just read the first two volumes of the Henry Thompson trilogy, Caught Stealing and Six Bad Things, and they are wonderfully good. Very, very high body-count wholly justified (in my opinion) by the way the violence seems real--just because we like someone doesn't mean he/she isn't going to get unpleasantly killed in the next scene or two.

This is noir taken just about as far as it can go while still remaining stylish rather than absolutely existentially bleak; the thing that makes it work is the beauty of the writing, Huston is an absolutely angelic sentence-writer & the voice of the main character (who narrates the books) is unbelievably well realized, with a light touch that makes the painfulness of the whole business much more striking. Huston's got a great way with dialogue, too.

Here and there, I found myself questioning the plausibility of the books' set-ups (I have never met a cat, for instance, who was nearly so ready to get into a bag as the one that accompanies Hank for all of the first novel & the first part of the second one--really that cat would have been lost to him early on, though of course it is very enjoyable that he's around for all those scenes), but the whole thing gets more and more effective as we go along; the second half of the second one is spectacularly good, I have just read it on the edge of my seat (cliche, cliche--but really I did mean to try and go to bed early for once but I couldn't stop until I got to the end) and am already scheming as to who will send me an advance copy of the final volume of the trilogy, A Dangerous Man, which will be published in September.

(Despite their excellence, these books haven't displaced from my heart my most-favorite introduction to Huston's writing, the vampire-zombie-alternate-Manhattan noir Already Dead--here's me in the grip of it this past fall, I remember hearing about it some months before it was published & just being consumed with longing for it, I could not rest until it was in my hands because of my conviction that it must be the perfect book. And it was.)

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