July 23, 2012

The game of the name - Peter Leonard's escape into the past.

Peter Leonard is the son of the Great Elmore Leonard, and in case we were in any doubt, there's an encomium from his dad as the preface to Voices of the Dead. In it, Leonard senior praises Leonard junior for having read his Ten Rules of Writing, especially the one about leaving out the parts that readers find boring.

Well, that's certainly true here. Voices of the Dead moves along like a steam train, barely pausing for breath (if a steam train breathes ... ). Set initially in 1971, it tells the story of Harry Levin, a Detroit scrap metal merchant, who finds himself hunting down an ex-Nazi who he remembers from the war, and who is still roaming the world killing Jews who might incriminate him. The story moves back to Dachau in 1942 for some key scenes that explain Harry's actions and give context, perhaps, for contemporary readers who don't know what went on in the concentration camps.

July 13, 2012

The Night and the Music: the seductions of Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block's The Night and the Music has a kind of finality to it that his many readers will be sorry about. Not a finality suggesting that he's about to hang up his pen, but that it might be closing time for his most famous creation, Matt Scudder.

Scudder is an ex-cop who gave up the Job when he accidentally shot a young girl while in pursuit of a felon. Since then he's lived on the edge of police-work by helping people out - sometimes people he knows; often those who know about him. He doesn't take a fee, but he does like his expenses to be covered. As he isn't a cop - and not even a licensed detective - he doesn't have the authority of the law behind him, so he has to grease a few palms or buy a few drinks. Or even 'buy a policeman a hat' - which appears to be slang for giving a cop 25 dollars in order to get some official info.