When is a detective novel, not a detective novel? When Thomas Pynchon writes it. Inherent Vice, described in the run-up to its release as a hard boiled detective novel, is a lousy detective novel, but a pretty good Thomas Pynchon novel. Vice is ostensibly a novel, and main character, Doc Sportello, is a PI. And like any PI novel, Sportello's story starts with a woman, specifically, an ex-girlfriend who shows up one day and says her current boyfriend, a wealthy developer, may be in some trouble and asks Doc to check it out. From there, things go off the rails pretty quickly, but they never get to the Gravity's Rainbow level of weird. Rainbow reads like something an overly bright guy locked in a room with a typewriter and a lot of coke would come up with and, as such, it's pretty much unreadable unless you're putting the book down every half-hour to chop out a couple fresh lines.
Inherent Vice, though, is a more mellow Pynchon. He seems to be having fun. There are more dope jokes in this book than all the Cheech and Chong films combined, and they're considerably funnier than anything Cheech and Chong ever did. Pynchon's main problem is that, even when he lightens up, he can't stop being Pynchon, which means that there's not really any way to accurately describe the plot, because it's basically a loose conglomeration of episodes, some more amusing than others, as Pynchon muses on the death of the 60's, and "What it all means."
Pynchon's never been a real novelist. He's a writer the way William S. Burroughs was a writer, but not a novelist. I was hoping that Inherent Vice would be a real detective novel, and not one of Pynchon's usual postmodern wanks with detective window dressing. The good news is, however, that this, apart from The Crying of Lot 49, is Pynchon's most accessible novel, and shouldn't scare off anyone who is curious about his work. I enjoyed it quite a bit as a Pynchon novel. It lacked his usual ponderousness, and really did have some quite funny bits, especially if you're a fan of smart stoner humor. Still, I'd have been more impressed if he'd written an honest-to-god crime novel and published it under a pseudonym, thereby shocking the hell out of everybody.
The back and front of Gil Brewer's Sugar, which you will likely not find elsewhere on the Internet. It's not even on bookscans. I have been meaning to post it for a while, and I feel like I've been neglecting the blog lately, so there you go, something novel to feast your eyes on.
The blog has been rather devoid of content lately, I know. I have been busy at work and life, and throw in a little sickness, and this little project sort of gets put on the back burner. I'm also reading a lot of books that aren't really site appropriate, so that's taking up a lot of my free time. The good news is, however, that I do have a couple of reviews in the can for books that are coming out next month, and soon I should have some more time to devote to a back catalog of topics I would like to spend some time touching on here. Thanks for your patience.
John Lutz, for better or for worse, is best known as the guy who penned SWF Seeks Same, which Hollywood turned into the Bridget Fonda vehicle Single White Female. He's done a lot more than that, though. His Wikipedia entry lists three series of books, thirteen stand alones and more short stories than I can be bothered to count. It was Lutz's short story from The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction that first got my attention, so when I ran across his novel Ride The Lightning in a used book store, I snatched it up.
Ride the Lightning is one of Lutz's Alo Nudger books. It's based on an Edgar winning short story, which originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1985. The perpetully down-on-his-luck Texas PI is hired by a white trash sweetheart to prove that her boyfriend, who is sitting on death row for killing a convenience store clerk during a robbery is innocent. Nudger knows the case is hopeless, but he takes it anyway. He needs the money. Of course, once Nudger starts poking around, he finds things aren't as cut and dried as they seem.
Ride the Lightning confirms my initial impression of Lutz as an excellent writer. You can add him to the list along with writers like Ed Gorman and James Reasoner who are criminially underrrated and unknown while people who murder the English language and the rules of good fiction make the bestseller lists. Ride the Lightning, and I suspect the rest of Lutz's work, are well worth your time.
Welcome to the Indie Crime Blog. As the name implies, this blog is dedicated to reviews of crime fiction published by independent presses. There are many books published every year that seem to be ignored for a variety of reasons. The books sections of newspapers are getting smaller. Bookstores give more shelf space to more established authors. I could go on, but you get it.My intent is to review books both old and new in the hopes that some deserving writers and worthy publishers will gain some exposure. I can be emailed at IndieCrime-at-gmail-dot-com