Monday, 28 January 2013

Bad Boy...but One Hell of a Read!

BAD BOY is more than a book, it's more than fiction or nonfiction, it's a document of a time in American history that was unlike any other.  A time when the power of the nation was on the cusp of exploding forth in a wave of possibility and it's captured perfectly by one of the most linguistically creative writers the twentieth century was fortunate to have.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

To Be Continued...

IT SEEMS THAT every book out there in the reading world is part of an ongoing series/trilogy/franchise/cash cow.  I understand there’s a market for continuing characters and I can certainly see the attraction in being able to return to well established individuals rather than begin all over again but with the literary world getting smaller (thanks to the merger of Penguin and Random House) and yet more competitive (thanks to the wonder of self publishing) it makes me wonder if there’s anyone out there for those of us who don’t want to tell 330 pages of an ever continuing narrative.

The first thing that happened when I finished Lost Angeles and began shopping it around was the question of “what next” came up.  I, rather stupidly, thought the question was about me (reinforcing the idea that all writers are egotists) and began pondering what I was going to write about next but it quickly became clear that the question was about the characters, the world in which they inhabited…”what next for the citizens of Lost Angeles?  Where do they go from here?”  The answer was “well, nowhere because they're imaginary people who populate a body of fiction”.  It was quickly pointed out that the ‘nothing, this is a stand alone story’ wasn’t the correct answer which led me to begin pondering what next and against my better judgement I began coming up with what came next.  I’ve completed the first draft stage but I don’t know whether it’ll ever make it out, there’s something about having a complete story and not a ‘to be continued’…

The better half was telling me about the problems with the Stephanie Plum novels, the large problems being that the narrative is formulaic to the point of easy prediction and that the characters have never developed.  Nineteen books later Stephanie is still terrible at her job and somehow hasn’t been murdered brutally in her apartment – a full arms reach away from her cookie jar.  It got me thinking, thinking about these continuing series and how so many of them break what I’ve always been told to be the first rule of writing: write about what you know.  How many people know about being a Doctor by day and a Federal Agent by night who’s trying to perform a heart bypass while protect the President?  How many have been lusty vampires or the sex slave of a wealthy billionaire?  Not only do I not care about writing a continuing series but I don’t care about writing fantastic worlds or exciting jobs, or maybe I do.  While Lost Angeles II: Back in the habit (that’s not it’s name but it should be) cools on the shelf I think I might try my hand at genre writing, see if I can squeeze out a piece of fiction with real characters in if not unreal then certainly unfamiliar circumstances.  At my film review site Knifed in Venice genre pieces are some of my most enjoyable films so maybe I’m doing it wrong, maybe I should try writing the book that I can picture the movie being adapted from.  I’m off to give it a go but I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be a stand alone…

Friday, 18 January 2013

Grape Expectations

Fante's Brotherhood of the Grape is billed as his most mature work...because it is.  It's a powerful piece of literature about a family and how there's always another chance to make a connection.  What it creates in emotion and maturity it somewhat loses in the passion you'd get from a character like Arturo Bandini but you can see how every word is beautiful, carefully hand picked and perfect.  There are echoes of 1933 Was A Bad Year and you can see the chapters that influenced Bukowski so greatly.  The man was something truly special, the most important American writer since Henry James?

Monday, 14 January 2013

A Lull in Pace

I was unsure about this book for a good 45% of the narrative but he's a tricky writer to pin down and the more I read the more I realised that there was not one work in there simply to pad out the page.  It's one of the most carefully considered pieces I've read and comes close to being too clever for it's own good but only close.  Starts slow, finishes strong and takes you on one hell of a ride along the way.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Choke on This!

Choke is one of those novels that seems to divide people and that's why I love it.  Most people will have been introduced to Chuck Palahniuk through Fight Club and would have come to his other works with a set of expectations that are quickly dashed.  Choke has some of the same stylish turns of his most famous work but it's a strong, intelligent and deviant book in it's own right.  Clever & filthy in equally enticing measures.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Strange, Short and Sweet

Love is tough to write.  The balance between honest emotion and hallmark diabetic coma is a fine one but it's one that's skilfully executed in this little gem.  The author has a way of changing her voice with each narrative that makes it not only fresh but also energetic and unpredictable.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Finally Fante

The Road to Los Angeles was a long one for this novel's release.  Fante held it back for a reason, it's far from his best work, it's far from the calibre you'd expect from the man but what it is is exciting.  In it's pages you can see the origins and blueprints for so many of his great pieces that are yet to come and for that it's worth cherishing forever.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Go-Kids, Go-Series, Go-Read!

PARKER PERKINS is an average young Manhattan boy with a healthy interested in video-games and one in particular; the Go-Boy simulator from his favourite film franchise but he didn't know it would come to save his life on his birthday.  When an East Coast terrorist attack touches his life in ways he could never imagine it sets in motion a chain of events that will change the young boy's life forever.

I came to the book cold; I'm thirty-one years of age and outside what I had always imagined would be the key demographic for a series of books that sets it's stall out as Harry Potter meets Iron Man but strip away genre and the one thing that unites good books is the writing and A Shadow Passed Over The Son has it in spades.

At one hundred and eleven pages it's a tantalisingly short read but one that doesn't waste a word in establishing not just a world that's familiar yet futuristic while at the same time already aged but in creating characters that are identifiably human both brilliant and flawed in their humanity and always a delight.  The walls groaning, flexing before imploding...a chorus of cheers, echoing somewhere up there, atop the mountain of rubble demonstrates a style of writing that's lyrical and poetic yet depicts the grotesque; the destructive in such a beautiful way that you understand why people slow down to examine car crashes on the freeway.  Sky City South is already old; it's a wonderful use of the science fiction motif of the new already old that brings visual recollections of the likes of Bladerunner that add a grounding to the narrative that brings it out of the usual Young Adult wheelhouse and into a more dangerous and unpredictable world.

Schneider's characterisation of Parker is wonderful; you get a real sense that the author has poured a lot of his own knowledge into the young protagonist as he's a complex and contradictory lead that's deserving of a narrative that, from the outset, pulls no punches.  The estranged, protracted relationship between Parker and his military father is tortured and so heartbreakingly sweet.  It's difficult to go into details without writing into a narrative corner but it's the most powerful relationship of the book and is another signifier of a writer and a narrative for that matter that's willing to push against genre in order to create a psychologically realistic emotional landscape.  The book is littered with excellent supporting characters that will, I'm sure, over the course of the series develop further into the kind of figures that stick around in your heart long after the story has finished with this reviewer's personal favourite and early front runner being Colby who is not only the object of all Go-Boy fans envy or disdain (depending on the character) but is also one precocious little Hollywood child star and more than a little wrong upstairs (if you know what I mean) which has been overlooked due to the sycophantic nature of celebrity and the eternal quest modern society seems to have for being in the company of those who are famed.  I love how he goes into monologues; how he breaks with social conventions in conversation and is not only the breadwinner of his family but an absolute tyrant.  It's a great pastiche of the "fame machine" and a welcome inclusion in a wonderfully written, well paced and flawlessly directed narrative 

The first book in any series is something of a thankless task.  It has so much to do; it has a narrative to establish and plot; characters to introduce and flesh out so that when future instalments come along it's easier to care about them without the author telling to why you should.  Schneider deals with this first hurdle; this arguably joint highest hurdle (alongside the conclusion of the series) with great style, confidence and intelligence that's not only made A Shadow Passed Over The Son a joy to read but a real surprise and has certainly made me long to read further beyond book one's ending.

Ryan Schneider's A Shadow Passed Over The Son is out now!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Alcoholics

Jim Thompson's The Alcoholics is one of those books that everyone who has read it can't understand why those who haven't haven't.  It's a great read with some fantastic turns of phrases and beautifully simplistic characterisation that says more than could ever be put down on the page. The only issue with it is how criminally short it is, failing that it's a stylish and colourful beat novel that's a must for any lover of the soiled souls and fallen angels of literature.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Once More for the Road

It's a voyage through friendship and the wild American landscape. It's not always easy but that's life. Beautifully written in places and characterisation, I wanted to read On The Road again before seeing the film because I had serious questions as to whether it could be made into a film and if so then how.  Having read it again I'm a little clearer on how they got to casting but still don't know how on earth they've made a film that's in any way like the book.