Friday, August 17, 2012

The Twenty-Year Death, an excellent new pulp novel

The hook for Ariel Winter's new novel The Twenty-Year Death is that it's really three connected novels, written in the style of three classic authors:

Hard Case Crime originals are notable for capturing the feel of pulp classics without slavish imitation—which makes this first novel somewhat unusual. Winter, a “literary detective” and former bookseller, tells an epic tale in the form of three novels written in the style of three different crime-fiction legends.

Book 1, Malniveau Prison, channels Georges Simenon as Chief Inspector Pelleter tries to deduce how a murdered prisoner escaped the prison walls. Book 2, The Falling Star, is the Chandleresque story of a private eye, Dennis Foster, who’s hired to reassure a paranoid movie star and maybe take the rap for a murder. A recurring character in both books is Shem Rosenkrantz, an American writer who first seeks seclusion in France and then squanders his talents in Hollywood.

In book 3, Police at the Funeral, Rosenkrantz takes over the narration with the voice of a washed-up Jim Thompson protagonist, and, as he unravels, we see how the stories are stitched together. This is audacious and astonishingly executed.
That's mildly interesting as a talking point, but it would hardly matter if the stories weren't any good.

But the stories are very good, and the book has won raves from luminaries including Stephen King, Brian Azzarello, and Alice Sebold. The third story, Police at the Funeral, is as good as any sex-filled struggle for insurance money I've read. Right now the Kindle version is an outstanding value for $7.79 for the equivalent of 670 pages of text. (And the cover is lackluster, so there's no real reason to buy the enormous hard copy.)

*I've read quite a few books published by Hard Case Crime. My favorites are The Confession, Quarry's Ex, and Nobody's Angel. The Cosummata was pretty good. I didn't care for Choke Hold and The Colorado Kid.