Sunday, May 17, 2009
The Dead Past
I've always been interested in seeing how a writer known for one type of fiction handles himself with another type. Way back in the Eighties Tom Piccirilli, a writer associated with the dark side of neo-noir, wrote a pair of cozies. Yes, the most excellent Pic wrote two cozies.
I was re-arranging a bookshelf the other day (i.e., cramming six new books into a space for four) when I came to Tom's books. The first of his cozies, The Dead Past, literally fell into my hands. I opened it up and started reading the first page (I do this frequently which is why it takes me a long time to shelve books) and I was impressed by the voice and high style of the writing. I've now read the entire novel and I'll tell you it's a fine piece of work irrespective of sub-genre.
Johnathan Kendrick owns a small bookstore in Greenwhich village but occasionally travels back to his home town of Felicity Falls whenever his wheelchair-bound grandmother Anna, a mystery novel addict, chooses to involve herself in a local crime. This time she had no choice. Somebody stuffed the corpse of a small-time thief in her garbage can during the wintry night.
Familiar set-up for a cozy. But Pic makes the book entirely his own. The Kendrick voice is contemporary, hip and most of all real. One of Pic's strengths in all his books is the relationships and The Deadly Past is no exception. There's a two-page history of Kendrick's failed first marriage that is painfully true. Even the mandatory (new) love in the book quickly takes on complications that lift her out of stereotype. There's nobody easy here; they're too human. He also does a evocative job with small town life and politics.
These books are easy to come by on used book sites. The fine writing alone makes them worth getting.