Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Small Crimes Dave Zeltserman

From the publisher:

Crooked cop Joe Denton gets out of prison early after disfiguring the local district attorney, which doesn't help his popularity. Nobody wants Joe to hang around-not his ex-wife, his parents, or his former colleagues. Meanwhile, local mafia don Manny Vassey is dying of cancer and keen to cut a deal with God. He's thinking of singing to the DA if this will set him up for a better after life. And he knows stuff that will send Joe down again for a very long time-along with half the local law enforcement.

Set in the pressure cooker of a very small town and following the promise of Dave Zeltersman's earlier novels (Fast Lane and Bad Thoughts), Small Crimes is an explosive noir that brings the claustrophobic hell of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain right up to date.


Ed here:

Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman is one of the finest dark suspense novels I've read in the past few years. The lazy comparison is to Jim Thompson but despite occasional similarities in approach and characterization, Zeltersman gives us a fully realized world that Thompson never did.

As a story the book is break-neck. Though character and milieu are rich in detail, the cunning structure of the chapters turns this into a thinking person's page turner. I found myself wanting to jump ahead to find out what was going to happen to all these truly dangerous and despicable people.

Joe, the narrator, is one of the most complex and fascinating creatures in modern hardboiled. He was a crooked cop in a nest of predatory crooked cops. Cocain and gambling kept him from looking at himself and his behavior objectively. But this is where the novel holds one of its many surprises. For all his good intentions on leaving prison, for all his seeming remorse for what he did to the DA and his own loved ones, Joe doesn't seem to realize that he's essentially the same character despite the having ridded himself of his addictions. There is just his fear and melancholy and rage. And his sometimes appalling self-pity. Occasionally he seems to believe that he's the victim.

Will he kill again to save himself? Will the treacherous cops he worked with kill him? Will be be able finally to recognize what he is and set about changing? And will the old mob boss, so eerily drawn, make it to heaven after all?

This is a tough and brutala book but it's not phony tough or phony brutal. The people here having a stinging reality enriched by Zeltserman's lucid and compelling prose.

1 comment:

Terry Butler said...

Ed, I'm reading Small Crimes today and I must echo yours and the publisher's words. It's amazing how Zeltserman evokes Cain and Thompson while setting the book in today's world and without just giving us an homage or a take on those author's works. He captures the spirit.
Its truly a roller coaster ride...