Thursday, October 1, 2009
Friday's "Forgotten" Books: I'M DYING HERE by Damien Broderick and Rory Barnes (Point Blank 2009)
OK, this one gets provisi. Damien Broderick is a friendly netquaitance of mine, which is how I first became aware of this novel; like Bill Crider, whose laudatory blurb is quoted on Amazon, and myself, Damien is a member of the FictionMags list, and a fine and accomplished fellow. I suspect Rory Barnes is, as well, though the novel under discussion here is the only Barnes I'm sure I've read, and I've not corresponded with him...so, favoritism warning out of the way, I'll note that Bill is quoted thus: "This is a comic, crazy, original crime novel. You won't find another one like it this year, or, more likely, ever."
I'll disagree with that only to the extent that what it reminds me of, powerfully, is a Donald Westlake comic novel about Dortmunder. I don't mean a pastiche, nor certainly a copycat, and I mean it feels more like a Dortmunder than even most "caper" novels do, and I mean it as high praise. If Dortmunder was an Australian reasonably proficient but somewhat principled crook rather than a Yank, his misadventures would tend to resemble these. This is a book you should pick up if you find yourself rereading THE HOT ROCK for the seventh time, and finding it rather familiar somehow. It also, in touching on sundered families and attempts at pulling some sort of relation back out of the mess, reminds a bit of the late John D. MacDonalds, but still, the comic tends to trump the tragic throughout (so far...I'm not quite at the end, as my own life has been more tragic than comic of late).
So why is a new book "forgotten"? It's had its difficulties in the US market, at very least. The first edition carried the Oz-friendly title I SUPPOSE A ROOT'S OUT OF THE QUESTION?, which if one prnounces "root" as "rut" will probably come clear to any puzzled folk--even when this question is posed in the novel in its new edition, the query is rendered in more Standard English, for the benefit of Yanks and such. So far, not nearly as much attention as it deserves, and its small publisher doesn't have the budget or the clout of a few of the other major projects in crime-fiction specialists active today (how this book got away from Hard Case, I don't know), and it'd be a pity if we let it slip by unremarked.
If you dig smart, funny caper novels, at very least, I suspect you'll like this one as much as I do.
For more "forgotten" books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.