A feverishly readable psychological noir.

TO HELL WITH JOHNNY MANIC

A fugitive embezzler in need of a fresh start gambles on assuming the identity of a presumed off-the-grid video game maven.

For lovers of crime fiction, there can be no more seductive catnip than a caper about a compromised antihero desperate to change his life for the better, the unhappily married femme fatale who is going to make that exceedingly difficult, a detective who is suspicious of both of them, and a rising body count. The book’s title alone evokes distinctive film noirs past like Johnny Allegro, Johnny Eager, and Johnny O’Clock. But this is no warmed-over pastiche. Tom Gantry is the kind of hard-luck case for whom “every place I walk into lately turns out to be the wrong place.” But then the thief meets John Manis, a reclusive former software god to whom Gantry bears an uncanny resemblance. One sailboat “accident” later and Gantry gets the opportunity for a second chance with Manis’ passport, wealth, and freedom. After a “slow westward drift through the casinos of New Orleans and Las Vegas,” Gantry buys a young entrepreneur’s business in a Napa Valley town and sets himself up as the Computer Kid, servicing the tech needs of the affluent residents. Two things muck up the works: Manis’ unceasing voice in his head (“What are you up to this time? Even I don’t get it”) and Marilyn Dupree, whose husband treats her cruelly. When Gantry meets the ravishing Dupree, “the fuse” is lit. Their passionate affair does not go unnoticed by Lou Eisenfall, a local cop, especially when the story takes some deadly turns. The novel’s central conceit does strain credulity: Certainly the re-emergence of a long-missing person of Manis’ stature would go viral and unmask the imposter. But all is forgiven when Diamond (Impala, 2016, etc.) nails an evocative, nihilistic, hard-boiled style that fans of Jim Thompson and the like will admire (“She saw something in me and I saw something in her, and whether or not it was something good, something was better than nothing”). A screen adaptation would be manna for character actors portraying Gantry’s intriguing customers (how about Blythe Danner as the Lemonade Lady?).

A feverishly readable psychological noir.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9963507-7-8

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Stolen Time Press

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more