Monday, 22 October 2012

Lost Angeles – From Belfast to L.A., a Ride for the Reader

ANOTHER GREAT REVIEW of Lost Angeles has arrived from Wendy Powers, co-author of The Testament of Judith Barton who generously took time out of her schedule to not only read my little book but also to share her thoughts...

Doug, the protagonist and narrator of Dave Louden’s debut novel, Lost Angeles, may find himself lost as he navigates between memories of his native Belfast and the L.A. to which he’s run; but the reader is never lost in the sure hands of this storyteller.
From the opening chapter which catapults Doug into Los Angeles, straight off the plane from Belfast and into a near-fight in a fast food box, the reader is taken for a ride.  Louden owes a debt to Bukowski, but he has nevertheless his own original voice: wry, sharp and sarcastic, confident.  He has an amazing facility with words which may be a tribute to the Irish gift for story-telling, but is surely his own gift, too.  Doug is in control of the telling of the tale – if not his own life.
Louden has a knack for writing sentences that seem too off-hand to be coy, contrasting urban grit and philosophical ideals in phrases like "devour chicken wings like life does dreams.”  The writing feels as if it’s been written in a white heat, and it pulls the reader along for the ride. 
The punctuation flows lifelike, but hard to say if that is a fault of the writing or a very purposeful capture of the narrator’s voice.  It is a man’s voice, to be sure, one with which a female reader may occasionally have trouble connecting – especially in regards to the high number of sexual escapades, which make some chapters read as a Penthouse tale.  But having said that, they are entertaining chapters, to be sure.
Some female characters could bear to be more three-dimensional, less a fantasy or nightmare in Doug’s mind.  Though whether that is a fault of the story-telling, or a brilliant insight into Doug’s point-of-view, hard to say.  When we meet Kelly, the woman with whom Doug has had the best chance, perhaps of creating a long-term life, their relationship is already disintegrating; but she remains a force in the novel, a comparison against the many other women Doug meets, till it’s no surprise if yet still shocking in its sadness to find out that what drove Doug to L.A. was Kelly’s fate.
From the sunny days and neon-lit nights of L.A., to the rainy and dark winter afternoons of Belfast, Louden has an especial gift for capturing cities as if they were characters themselves.  As Doug walks through them, you feel these two cities’ respective breath on your back, their rhythm and beat, as a musical underscore to the story.
Louden also exhibits an admirable facility for handling changes in time and place.  From the narrator’s memories of childhood and lost loves in Belfast, to his episodic wanderings through L.A., the reader is whisked back and forth in time and place with ease.  The novel feels as if it must have been carefully plotted, yet reads with a naturalism that contradicts that.
Lost Angeles partakes of the picaresque genre, except that Doug does grow as a character, coming to grips with what has hurt him so by the end of the novel.  The story earns its ending, in which Doug, having exorcised his ghosts, or at least come to grips with them by staring them straight on, finds his calling.  This reader, for one, hopes that the author of Lost Angeles has, too.  The novel’s final sentence is perfection.

Lost Angeles is available from December 1st 2012 in Paperback and Kindle.
To read the first chapter click [here].