Friday, November 16, 2007

40. Bordersnakes by James Crumley

Bordersnakes picture

Well I really fell off the trail these last couple months. I blame roleplaying games. Way too many cool freebies to download. Though there is reading and story in these publications, I tend to not read them from beginning to end and rarely complete them. If I did, I might consider counting them here. Worse, they contribute to my internet-driven inability to concentrate on one thing for extended periods of time. So realizing that I'm getting near the finish line (and that Print is Dead is clearly on the way to taking this year's championship), I'm pushing myself to get back in gear.

This colourful-covered, easy-reading crime book from 1996 looked to be a good place to start. I picked it up at the only english language used bookstore east of McGill, S.W. Welch's. The owner, who reads a wide range of crime books himself (and likes the Parker books), said that Crumley's books were pretty good and well known. I was a little surprised I'd never crossed the paths of detectives Milodragovitch and Shugrue before.

I think I jumped in late in the series. The two detectives have split up and are out of the game, but get back together to right individual wrongs. The plot becomes very complex, revealing that these wrongs are wrapped up in their pasts and may be connected. I'm being deliberately vague here because it was all kind of complex and at times a bit confusing. Crumley is one of those crime writers who makes little leaps of logic and expects his readers to follow along. I'm too lazy to do that, especially when I didn't have much invested in the characters. I think jumping in at the end of these two characters' stories was a factor here. But not entirely.

This book is very violent and sometimes over the top. I like violence and excess, but I don't like sadism and excess for shock. Bordersnakes walked a thin line. The first half is really a fun ride, with the two of them driving all over texas and mixing it up with a range of freaks, criminals and weirdos. But it gets darker and nastier and less realistic in the second half, while plummeting into the darker sides of the characters themselves. For me, this went too far into self-indulgence for me and got really nasty, with a very detailed and horrific exposition of a rape scene. It was just too much. The fact of it was enough. The detail felt pornographic and indulgent. The author lost me at that point.

I'll keep an eye out for the earlier books and if I find them cheap and am stuck in an airport or something, I may pick them up. I suspect the earlier books may have been cleaner and tighter and less extreme. Bordersnakes moves fast and there is lots of good action, so it was a good way to ease back into the 50 book race.


meezly said...

I'm all for fewer games, more reading!

Unknown said...

This is why I love these book blogs - always a new author to look for around every corner. I got this quote from a piece about Crumley. I liked it:

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

The crime fiction cognoscenti have committed that paragraph to memory.

As Dennis Lehane confided in April 2003, speaking for himself and fellow crime authors George Pelecanos and Michael Connelly, “I think it's funny we all hold the same book in a certain high regard, which is James Crumley's Last Good Kiss. I think that’s the thing we’re swinging for — ‘there’s the benchmark, let’s go after that.’ That’s a book that stands head and shoulders above any concept of genre fiction.”