Monday, September 28, 2009

No one knows what its like to be the bad man

Like Jim Thompson and James Ellroy, Charlie Huston writes beautifully dark novels about crime where the reader escapes despair through excellent writing rather than false hope of redemption. I've just finished the second Hank Thompson book which is titled Six Bad Things. We first meet Hank in Caught Stealing. In that book, Hank is a down on his luck guy who gets a bad case of the wrong place, wrong time syndrome. This should be a bore, but Huston delivers enough plot, violence and tight writing to make it sing. If you liked that book, read this one too.

Here be spoilers.

The second book is slower but more interesting. The trilogy would appear to be the creation story for a complicated villain. In the first one, Hank was a guy on the run who mostly had bad things happen to him, but who saw many of those connected to him die. In the second, he makes more of his own choices, delivers more of his own violence and becomes someone for whom violence is more natural.


It's a sad book, because his greatest victims are his parents. In trying to protect them, he puts himself on a course that leads to a Hamlet-esque body count. The darkness of the main character will put off anyone who frowns when they hear words like hard-boiled or noir. If you can get past that, look at the dialogue. His characters are great as well. He has a number of gems here including a pair of stoned surf killers, some whiter shade of trash vigilantes and a Elvis impersonating drug dealer with a dog named Hitler.

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