Thursday, September 19, 2013

Forgotten Books: The Plastic Nightmare

I've written here before about Richard Neely. He wrote non-series crime novels that pretty much covered the entire range of dark suspense. I mentioned that in the best of them the weapon of choice is not poison, bullets or garrote. He always prefered sexual betrayl.

Plastic is a good example. Using amnesia as the central device Dan Mariotte must reconstruct his life. Learning that the beautiful woman at his bedside all these months in the hospital--his wife--may have tried to kill him in a car accident is only the first of many surprises shared by Mariotte and the reader alike.

What gives the novel grit is Neely's take on the privileged class. He frequently wrote about very successful men (he was a very successful adverts man himself) and their women. The time was the Seventies. Private clubs, privte planes, private lives. But for all the sparkle of their lives there was in Neely's people a despair that could only be assauged (briefly) by sex. Preferably illicit sex. Betrayl sex. Men betrayed women and women betrayed men. It was Jackie Collins only for real.

Plastic is a snapshot of a certain period, the Seventies when the Fortune 500 dudes wore sideburns and faux hippie clothes and flashed the peace sign almost as often as they flashed their American Express Gold cards. Johny Carson hipsters. The counter culture co-opted by the pigs.

The end is a stunner, which is why I can say little about the plot. Neely knew what he was doing and I'm glad to see his book back in print. Watching Nerely work is always a pleasure.
         Somebody should  make most of his novels available in e book form.


BVLawson said...

I did a quick search to see if there are any hints of Neely books in the pipeline, but nada. I like your reference to him as the "de Sade" of the genre in your Foreword to the Centipede edition.

J F Norris said...

I've seen the movie version of this book and I was blown away by the surprise ending. I can imagine it is probalby even more sof a jaw-dropper for a reader. I like Neely's books just as much as you, Ed. But though I own a copy of this book I've never read it because I know the ending so well. One of these days I'll pick it up and see how well it works with advance knowledge.

Rick Robinson said...

Ed, you said it's nice to see it back in print, but I don't see it currently in print in my brief searchings. Sounds interesting.

Ed Gorman said...

My apologies. The first draft of this was written at the time that Milipede Press had republished Plastic. They may have a few strays left. Jerad did a beautiful hardcover collectors edition of it.

Kelly Robinson said...

The fact that you can't say much about the plot tells me it must be a corker. I'll keep an eye peeled for this.