Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Allan Guthrie's new novel Savage Night opens with a page that dares you not to keep reading. I lost the dare and I'm glad I did.

In prose almost ruthlessly simple Guthrie tells us the tale of two Edinburgh small-time crime families who visit enough violence on each other to please Dick Cheney and all people named Scooter.

Former convict Andy Park needs money to to help his invalid wife. His daughter Effie (violent ward material for sure) suggests that they blackmail a sleazebag named Tommy Savage who helped kill her boyfriend's father. Or something. They demand fifty k from Mr. Savage and tell him how they want the money delivered. It is at the money drop that the relentless violence begins with Park's family threatened. Park defends them with brutal cunning.

There is a great scene where the blackmailer walks into a daytime restaurant wearing a ski-mask to set up the deal. Few writers could make this work. Guthrie doesn't break a sweat. The oddness of the moment and the hint of violence stun you.

But you sort of expect violence, don't you, when the book opens with a man and woman trying to decide if the dead man is actually their uncle. They are having difficulty identifying the body because the head has been removed.

Guthrie's novel is modern in every respect. Despite scenes that could easily go over-the-top, the prose never mocks its people or situations. This is a serious world view being offered and if the people seem unlike your neigbors you just haven't been watching enough true crime tv shows. There really are folks like these and they really do these things to their fellow man. Guthrie gets them down just right. He never moralizes, he simply reports.

Too easy to call this cutting edge. It'smore than that. It's a new way of looking at the world and a brand new way of writing crime fiction. Guthrie's best book to date.

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