Friday, July 20, 2007

Ray Bradbury; Alan Guthrie

Ray Bradbury has done something rare among writers. He worked on the same manuscript--on and off--for more than fifty years. It was worth the wait.

Somewhere A Band is Playing is an evocative, luminous story of reporter James Cardiff's discovery of a place called Summerton and one of its most beautiful residents, the elegant and lovely Nefertiti. Never mind that the town is not listed on any map,nor that the place didn't have any children. Cardiff suspects even stranger truths and senses that Neff can, if she chooses, reveal them to him.

The story is riveting and the writing some of Bradbury's best. Accompanying the short novel are fragments of the book that Bradbury never finished and the start of script scrapped later, giving us a fascinating look at the process of creating fiction. William F. Nolan contributes a knowing and helpful introduction.

This is among Bradbury's best work. Gauntlet Press should be congratulated for bringing it out. And Ray Brabdury should be thanked for writing it.


Allan Guthrie's Hard Man is actually a couple of books, both of them excellent. There's the storyline with Pearce, the Guthrie man we've met before, avenging the murder of his dog in a serio-comic (and occasionaly black comic) pursuit of a lunatic named Wallace. And then there's Edinburugh, the city where it's set, itself.

The violence of the story plays well against the violence of the city, which Guthrie manages to make seem much smaller than does Ian Rankin. This is because Guthrie and his multiple cast of characters all inhabit a very small psychological (if not physical) section of the city. If Rankin's cop is looking for something resembling truth, Guthrie's characters are looking for nothing more than satisfying the immediate needs of their rather amusingly diseased minds. Jim Thompson with the heebie-jeebies.

This is a quick, compelling novel that proves that Guthrie is as restless as his characters. I don't think he's a writer who'll settle for doing the same book over and over. This is a calculated and successful departure from his first two books. Interesting to speculate on what he'll do next. Harcourt/Otto Penzler

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