Saturday, September 22, 2007

From RARA AVIS

Since Fast Lane was published in 2004 it has been praised by a number of folks, including Craig McDonald (whose Head Games is next on my TBR pile), Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Ken Bruen, Vicki Hendricks, Gary Lovisi, Seymour Shubin, Charlie Stella, Poisoned Pen Bookstore (listing it as one of the top hardboiled books of the year) and Kate's Mystery Bookstore. I've gotten emails from readers who somehow discovered this book, and some nice reviews and mentions on different web-sites, including Finnish writer and pulp enthusiast, Juri Nummelin, trying to decide whether this neo-noir book from a tiny publisher should make his top 10 PI novel list. The other day, Michael Robinson, a RARA AVIS stalwart, posted his thoughts on Fast Lane:

"Like Goodis, Zeltserman can bring a minor character to life in a few precise sentences. Like James Ellroy, he can smoothly crank up the tension as the story progresses. You can feel them sweat. Probably the most striking parallel is with the works of Jim Thompson. Like Thompson, Zeltserman excels at invoking an almost hypnotic fascination with a character's hand basket ride into his own private hell.

One thing worth mentioning is the juxtaposition of humor and horror. Without some sort of relief, a noir work risks losing the reader by drowning in its own morbid ooze. Woolrich's I Married a Dead Man is a good example. Dark humor is the writer's preferred choice of relief. Willeford understood this. Same with Al Guthrie and Vicki Hendricks. But the technique is not risk-free. Humor can negate the desperation of the noir condition and turn reader empathy to apathy. What it takes is a graveyard, irony-dripping humor that complements the text rather than contradicting it. In this arena, Zeltserman is a master. He has not only read Jim Thompson. He has improved on him. Thompson's Pop. 1280 is almost always in danger of devolving into a farcical joke. Fast Lane avoids this with a wicked humor integrated perfectly into the increasingly dark world of Johnny Lane."

Mike is one of a half dozen members of RARA AVIS whose postings and critical examinations I look forward to reading--both because of his knowledge and passion for crime fiction, and to get that type of reaction from him for Fast Lane is something that made my day--fuck that, my week!

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