Not as stark as the work of Walter Mosley, but Dickey’s novel embraces its noir influences.

TEMPTED BY TROUBLE

Two minutes is long enough to save a life—or end it, as a desperate husband finds out when he takes to a life of crime.

Dickey (Resurrecting Midnight, 2009, etc.) starts this bleak tale of a robbery gone wrong with a bang. “Sometimes the only choices a man had left were bad ones,” says Dmytryk Knight, a former white-collar executive at a Detroit automaker. Eventually, Knight gets to telling us the circumstances that put him in a room with a hardened criminal named, weirdly enough, after the main character in George V. Higgins's seminal crime novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle. But first, Dickey puts his man on the run. Dmytryk is introduced in the midst of an L.A. bank robbery straight out of Heat, and he watches in horror as a wounded guard blows away his partners in crime. Yet it’s obvious from the start that Knight is a different kind of desperado. “John Dillinger,” he muses. “That criminal knew there were only two ways to get money in the land of free enterprise: you earned it, or you took it at gunpoint. That was about as American as a man could get in the land of red, white, and the blues. Dillinger wasn’t my American hero.” Knight’s reason for being is his estranged wife Cora, who took to exotic dancing to make ends meet before encouraging her husband to get into a dirtier business. After an ill-advised liaison with a dead man’s mistress, Dmytryk flees for the South, hoping to escape his dire straits and finally reunite with Cora. But as Knight learns, trouble is hard to shake.

Not as stark as the work of Walter Mosley, but Dickey’s novel embraces its noir influences.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-525-95058-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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

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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

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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