Here's my first book review in eons, it seems, possibly a bit clunky, but let me work it out as I get back into them and I will feature more as I go along. Something else to be added to the blog mix.
Anyway, this one's for Stagger Bay by Pearce Hansen, a writer of real talent working some street-level noir with real kick. Here goes:
The other reviews here will tap more into the story, a wild ride for street-wise Markus, a man who has moved beyond the lure of the streets yet that knowledge and wisdom is still embedded deep within his psyche and soul. False imprisonment and a sudden release lead to revelations about that imprisonment that include some wrenches thrown in the mix in the form of a serial killer known as The Driver, yet it all comes together by the end. Add to this Hansen’s penchant for off-hand violence with such visceral force—the first such scene in an elementary school is visually stunning and ends with a perfect sacrifice that engages the reader emotionally amidst the bloodshed and, yes, it is very visual as I can already picture this and more here cinematically—when I say it’s a wild ride, I suggest you strap in when you read it.
But what matters for me here is the writing. So many people who call themselves writers nowadays should go back to selling shoes or laying concrete. I need that something extra, something that crackles, to lure me in and keep my interest. I am a critical reader and this one thing forces me to put down many books for the sheer lack of real fire and talent. Hansen comes fully-loaded, wielding metaphor and description as the best Wordsmith Masters such as Lucius Shepard, Elizabeth Hand, and Laird Barron do, though his focus is well apart from theirs. But, as with them, he brings that extra something I speak of that keeps me reading, involved, such vivid pictures painted with words one is immersed in the story, not just reading it. Though in stating the pictures as “vivid,” the tonal quality is dipped deep in the grey truths of real life, not simple black and white: the good are bad, the bad are good or at least the mix is always in question.
And Hansen knows his territory well. Funny, but when I read the opening pages of Stagger Bay I had a couple odd impressions shaped by Markus’ reaction to his situation: one, there was a sense of detachment, but not detached; what I mean is, despite circumstances out of his hands, there was the cold understanding of the prison cell running in his veins, keeping him in check when it might seem fighting back would be the normal modus operandi for most writers to use in this situation; Hansen approached it from a different angle, one completely honest to his character. And two, I was made to think of Joe Lansdale, a pertinent comparison, as both writers know their environment on levels that only one immersed within it can know: one can smell the grease and blood, the sweat and anxiety, sense the nerves twitchy and alive, never resting, never turned off for Hansen’s Markus. Reading an interview with Hansen a few weeks ago only confirmed my perception that he knows the streets well, first-hand. It’s a part of who he is and this familiarity raises the tale a few notches above the norm.
Sure, there are some slippery bits here and there and me being critical, I find giving five stars left only for perfection, but this clocks in at four and a half, for sure, and there’s no tag for that, so I’m happy to give it five and recommend it highly for anybody looking to immerse (!!!) themselves in a tale that pulls you down into the trenches and doesn’t let go.
So, there ya go, and here's the link to the Amazon page because, heck, if I read that review, I'd pick it up. How about you?
The review's up there as well, along with others to pique your curiosity.
Next time? Well, the ideas spinning in my head include something on Cronenberg, Gurrilla Blues (huh? Oh, you'll find out soon!), more about my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me, perhaps sampling deeper into the stories, upcoming stories elsewhere, flash fiction, perhaps samples of the novels...and this and that and we will see...
Here's the cover art for Hansen's book: Gritty, eh? Mysterious, too.