Monday, June 22, 2009

More Rabb, Parker, Grippando

Jonathan Rabb: The Hard Boiled Henry James!
"Martha had used silences like this. It was uncanny that a boy of sixteen-who had lost her at half that age-could so readily conjure them. It made Hoffner need to understand all the more. He said,"There has to be room for hope, doesn't there?" He bit at the words; absurd to hear them coming from his mouth when they had no business being his." This was chosen pretty much at random. It was really interesting in the first novel of this trilogy, Rosa. It's getting a little stale, because with repetition it's becoming horribly obvious that a lot of this is nonsense.

For no obvious reason, one phrase, "as subtle as oil," sticks in my mind. I suppose extravirgin olive oil has to be the most subtle, with Valvoline the least. But I'm at a loss to compare the subtlety of oil to the subtlety of even vinegar, much less ethylene glycol or the multitude of alcohols. If we allow solids into the comparison, I'm overwhelmed.

In addition to the prose's novelty value disappearing, there is a tiresome repeat of the bedmate getting killed because of Hoffner's slowness/indifference/existential depravity motif. It was far fetcthed but affecting in Rosa. Now it just seems like carelessness by the hero.

All God's Children today love Zionism, so Rabb has to malign Communism in his trilogy. In Rosa, it took the rather peculiar form of contrasting the human love life of Rosa Luxemburg with the emptiness of her public life. Oddly, Rabb couldn't quite succeed in giving her romances any content. Not so oddly, he avoided the content of her public life. Given the priority to Commie bashing, he has to tag the Nazis as evil by queerbaiting them. Mystery writers are so prone to the most idiotically reactionary judgments!

Incidentally, Rabb seems to think the German Communist Party peaked with the death of Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919. Since the party had been founded in December 1918, that was a political mayfly's biography. In fact, the party gained a mass membership with the split of the Independent Socialists in 1921. In the Ruhr crisis of 1923, there was a serious possibility of revolutionary action, and the lapse in taking action was a main issue in Trotsky's critique of Stalin. But of course, if the Communists were dead, then Rabb's detective can attribute Hitler's rise to human wickedness instead of support for the the Hero (Hitler, natuerlich,) who could save Germany from the dastardly Reds. And get a lot of foreign love as a fighter against Bolshevism.

It does make you wonder what's up when these allegedly dead issues are so touchy that a mere thriller writer, even one who would be a hetero James with a six pack, cannot honestly face the historical facts. It is a shame when a commendably ambitious writers goes wrong.

Robert B. Parker's latest Jesse Stone, Night and Day, has Stone dropping his attachment for his ex-wife Jenn, for Spenser's other sleuth, Sunny Randall. It appears that Stone, another millionaire moving further and further right, has come to believe that Stone's continued relations with his promiscuous ex is altogether too much like swinging. I didn't get that out of my hat: The villainy of swinging is a major part of the plot, and Stone's therapist Dix points out the parallels in different words! One of the swingers has taken up voyeurism, then home invasions to photograph naked women. Naturally, he pays the appropriate price, death, with everyone who shoots him down, grimly satisfied that it had to be done. There is a subplot where Stone has the brutal faggot Spike threaten the evil swinger who beats his wife into swinging (and emotionally damages his children by swinging.) This of course is expected to work.

Parker has always had an easy style, with wide margins and large print as prized virtues. But egregiougly bad characterization is starting to crop up. Suburban swingers would surely note the victimized wife's lack of enthusiasm. Real people would be fearful of her alleging rape. The whole subplot is drivel aimed at "justifying" threatening nasty sexual deviants. Along the way, Parker also managed to characterize police as "working men." That view has to be seen somewhere along the descending colon!

James Grippando, in Intent to Kill, got away from his dreadful Jack Swyteck hero. This book is at least readable. It hasn't got the clever premises of Found Money or the exotic background of A King's Ransom. Its emphasis on family relations puts it closer to Lying with Strangers. All three are better, more original. This one borrows a lot from The Curious Incident in the Night Time. There is an Asperger's Syndrome patient. The portrait of mental illnes is not grossly offensive like some many in crime novels. But it doesn't quite bear conviction either. Most of the time this character is treated more like a cliche autistic child than Asperger's. The thing about Asperger's is that the people are supposed to be functional. I wouldn't recommend this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment