Torn and Frayed – The Electric Mayhem

Philipp Meyer

Saturday’s Child by Ray Banks

Saturday’s Child is the first Cal Innes book. It’s a couple of years old at this point and all I can say is that it kicks 10 kinds of ass. Ray Banks writes with an intensity and energy that marks him as a force to be reckoned with.

I’ll just point out two of the strengths of the book.

The first is that the story is told in two dueling, interacting and concurrently running first person narratives. What makes this so compelling is it’s execution; each characters voice is so distinctive and unique that it damn near becomes a virtuoso performance.

The second is the language. Ray Banks takes the terse structure of the American crime novel and throws out the American slang that some hide behind and inserts a fully functional UK slang vocabulary. There isn’t much in the way of exposition for these terms so a reader has to be willing to jump into the deep end. If the key to cracking a culture is the language then Ray Banks has the key.

Gun by Ray Banks

Gun is a part of the Crime Express line of books, crime fiction novellas that can be read in one sitting. This is a cherry idea ripe for the picking here in the U.S.

Gun reminded me of my reading of Kill Clock by Allan Guthrie in one respect. Given the space limitations it has no room to falter and no room for extras. Yet despite the lean nature of the story Banks successfully works in character depth and character growth.

Gun is quick and dirty crime fiction, give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

American Rust takes vast swaths and bits and pieces of prior Great American Novels; echoes and influences of distinctly American novels and creates in the process an ambitious, sometimes plodding novel that feels vaguely familiar.

The characters are well defined but in some ways becomes an exercise in character study overkill. In my opinion the characters could have benefited from less internalizing and more external plot movement. This lack of external plot movement also handicaps one of the books intentions, creating a portrait of a dying/dead town. The close relation of the central circle of characters lends a closed off feeling to the whole affair. If the intent was to offer a portrait of a dying town, business and peoples (which I believe to be the case) then a broader cast of characters that cuts through more layers of social (and economic) strata is needed. The core characters regularly come into contact with secondary characters having different experiences then their own (and landing differently after the collapse) but since they aren’t explored at all they become missed opportunities. It’s this intended portrait of a dying town that suffers the most from these missed opportunities and keeps American Rust from being profound and relevant.

American Rust for me falls into the close but not quite category.

Brian loves both kinds of books — fiction and non-fiction. He is an all around book john and reviewing roustabout.