Tag: Michael Connelly

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

Posted December 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Generation Loss by Elizabeth HandTitle: Generation Loss (Goodreads)
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Published: Small Beer Press, 2007
Pages: 265
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Most people know that I am very particular when it comes to crime novels. I tend to be drawn to the gritty, pulp novels of the 1930s. I honestly could not tell you what works for me and what would not. Taste is a weird measuring tool; it is constantly changing and there are aspects that even the reader is unaware of, for example, I recently read Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand and there is so much I liked about this novel, yet there is something that did not work for me. I am reviewing the book in the hopes to fully understand my feelings here.

Cass Neary is the protagonist of what appears to be a series of currently five books. She had moderate success as a photographer in the 1970s, in which she was involved in the burgeoning punk movement and has a weird fascination with death photography. Thirty years, later she is a struggling freelance photographer that is running out of luck and work. An acquaintance of hers gives her a job to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. Cass Neary has the style and attitude I tend to like in a protagonist of a crime novel but still there is a part of me that wants more. It could be the fact that we rarely get a female protagonist in literature and I really want to see the struggles that she faces along the way.

This is not to say that Cass Neary has an easy journey, she faces many obstacles with Generation Loss, but I feel I wanted more. The whole struggling artist and living in the world as a woman, there is so much angst and anger that could really come alive in this novel. I do not think Elizabeth Hand did a bad job, I think she delivered a great book, I am just thirsty for more. I will read the second book Available Dark, and I am curious to see where Cass Neary’s journey will take her. I am just realising that I want very different things from a female protagonist to a male. I know this is wrong, but I want a bitter cynical male, but I want female detectives to struggle with the everyday sexism as well. The world is unjust, and I think there is a lot of interesting layers that can be added.

I have really enjoyed the Michael Connelly books that feature Renee Ballard because there is an exploration into the sexism of the police force. It is not that I want sexism to exist, I just feel like this is an aspect that should not be ignored in these books. I think these female investigators have a legitimate reason to be bitter and cynical with the world, and it want to explore that journey. I want to read more crime novels that feature an angry, feisty woman, and let us be honest, I would rather it be written by a woman, men do not have to ability to really understand just how sexist the world really is.

I really wanted to talk about Generation Loss, but I did not know how to write a review for a crime novel without going into the plot. This turned into an exercise to unpack my own feelings towards the genre and my own reading tastes. I am very aware of my own biases here, I just think in an unjust world, it is important to explore those injustices. Also, I just like a bitter and cynical character, and I do not want them always to be men, because women have more to be angry about. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.


The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

Posted May 12, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

The Last Good Kiss by James CrumleyTitle: The Last Good Kiss (Goodreads)
Author: James Crumley
Series: C.W. Sughrue #1
Published: Vintage, 1978
Pages: 244
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

James Crumley’s private investigator CW Sughrue finds himself searching for a runaway young woman, missing for ten years. But this is not how it started out; he was hired by a woman to find her ex-husband, Abraham Trahearne before he drinks himself to death. A confrontation in the bar that results in Trahearne being injured in hospital puts Sughrue in a position to look for this missing woman.

This hard-boiled novel is told in a way I don’t think has been done enough in a pulp crime novel. A parallel narrative exploring the problematic relationship between Sughrue and the wandering alcoholic novelist, and the three femme fatales in Trahearne’s life, just to make things more complex. Apart from that, you have the usual elements that make up a hard-boiled novel; alcohol, money, love, sex, power and violence.

Somehow James Crumley has a refreshing voice for this genre; I’m not sure if it is just that I’ve not read enough hard-boiled novels set in the seventies or there is something else there. I would put Crumley somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson; he doesn’t have the plotting skills and wit that Chandler has but he isn’t as violent and philosophical as Thompson. The narrative, while in a first person point of view, manages to switch between making the reader feel like they are in the same room trying to piece this mystery together, and then all of a sudden you are inside CW Sughrue head reading all his thoughts, emotions and memories. This isn’t easy to do but Crumley does this so seamlessly that you don’t really notice it happening. This narrative, mixed with the cynicism and low regard to society is what I think makes this book so refreshing.

This novel deals a lot with sex; Sughrue’s personal integrity and professional ethics are corrupted by the sexual desire towards Catherine; a desire she uses to manipulate him. Trahearne hasn’t been able to be creative because of his sexual desire with Melinda and his attraction towards his mother. Then there is Betty Sue, who just has a sexual desire towards everyone in the book. It’s important to know at the core of this books portrayal of sexual desire is the cynical belief that such corruption is unavoidable and even inevitable.

The Last Good Kiss also deals with the idea of identity and trying to escape your past, but ultimately realising you can’t run. Betty Sue hides her true self between layers of masks and other identities; she is running from her sexually exploitative time in San Francisco but it all comes back in the end. Trahearne can’t escape his infidelities, alcoholism and his ex-wife’s fury. All of them fail to realise that the past defines the present. Their mistakes in the past do not have to define their future but helps them grow; this book just ends up being a twisted celebration of life’s obstacles shaping our personality.

Admittedly I found myself being bored in parts of this book and wanting to skim read, but I persevered and found some interesting elements that stopped this from being a generic crime novel. CW Sughrue, is an alcoholic ex-army officer turned private investigator and that dark past is what makes me want to keep reading the series, just to discover what he is running from.  The Last Good Kiss has been described as the most influential crime novel of the last 50 years, influencing people like Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane and even Neal Stephenson; that alone is an impressive reason to check this book out. While I think I prefer Jim Thompson for style and message, James Crumley is an author I plan to explore more of.


The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø

Posted May 6, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

The Redbreast by Jo NesbøTitle: The Redbreast (Goodreads)
Author: Jo Nesbø
Translator: Don Bartlett
Series: Harry Hole #3
Published: Harvill Secker, 2000
Pages: 368
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: Amazon (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When they advertise Jo Nesbø as ‘The Next Steig Larsson’, I’m inclined to pass on this author. But since a lot of people seem to be raving about this author, I thought I better check him out, especially when they class his Harry Hole series as hard-boiled. I’ve found the only reason they are calling him the next Larsson is simply because he is another Scandinavian crime writer; which means some overly graphic murders, Nazis and an expected twist. The Redbreast is the third book in the Harry Hole novel but the first available in English. Hole is investigating neo-Nazi activity which leads him to further explore Norway’s activities on the Eastern Front during WWII.

Throughout the book it switches between telling the story of Harry Hole in 1999 and the man he is hunting Daniel Gudeson during the World War II. I like how Nesbø switched between the two times and characters to flush out the back story that was leading up to a much bigger current day threat. But that is where I stopped liking this book; I just felt this book was generic and too predictable for my liking. I want to be shocked, excited and enjoy myself when reading crime novels; one out of three just doesn’t cut it.

Now to address the genre issue; Harry Hole could be classed as a hard-boiled detective, as he drinks, smokes and seems to be a very bitter man. However, this novel seems to missing some of the elements that makes hard-boiled novels what they are; for starters where was the dark and gritty realism that I’ve come to love in pulp novels. Also the book was missing a femme fetale as well as the strong dialogue with hints of wittiness and/or irony. This felt more like the generic bestseller crime formula and if we are going to call Jo Nesbø ‘hard-boiled’,  we would have to let Michael Connelly in as well; and we don’t want that.

While this was in fact a fun book to read, I went into this book expecting something more pulp like and ended up getting generic. I’m sure there are plenty of people that will love this book, just don’t expect pulp; you’ll be sadly disappointed. If you are interested in knowing more about pulp fiction,  check out my blog entries on pulp for recommendations.