Sunday, October 26, 2003

This book left me sweaty around the edges.

A month or so ago, I saw a post by Michael, one-half of the 2 Blowhards, about a crime novel titled Mobtown by an author named Jack Kelly. Michael's review caught my notice not because he really liked the book, although his review did pique my interest in the book on that basis, but because of the book's setting: Rochester, New York, circa 1959. That's just sixty miles down the road from Buffalo. I'm quite familiar with Rochester -- it's a nice town that, like just about every other city in New York whose name isn't actually "New York", has fallen on some seriously hard times in recent decades. (Yeah, I know, NYC pretty much fell on the ultimate in hard times in a single day two years ago. That's not what I'm talking about.)

I don't tend to read too many mysteries. For some reason, I almost always find that the last third of a mystery, when things start getting revealed, is dramatically less interesting than the "mystery" part of the story, and to some extent I found that was the case here, as well -- one of those "The journey's more interesting than the destination" things. But it's a really fun journey here, especially because these are locales I know, to some extent. Some of the book's action takes place at a theme park called "Gleeland", which I take to be the park now called "Seabreeze", which was named "Dreamland" during the years in which the novel is set. I've been to Seabreeze, and I've ridden the Jackrabbit roller coaster. I've seen the Genesee River Gorge as it cuts right through downtown Rochester. The Red Wings still play minor league ball there. It's a real pleasure to see these kinds of locales worked into a novel like this. And it's a pleasure seeing a noir story taking place outside of New York or LA or San Francisco.

Parts of the novel left me a bit cold -- as I note, the climax didn't really grab me, and some of the standard private-eye novel cliches show up: the femme fatales, the action at the local boxing ring, the divorced private-eye who promises his kid he'll make the birthday party only to be detained by the local cops until well after the party is over. Still, it was a fun read, mainly for the locales and for Kelly's knack for the language of these types of stories. Michael quotes this bit of description, quite aptly:

Her lipstick had worn off, her hair was all over the place, and she was sweaty around the edges. But, man, could she dance.

A lot of the book reads like that. I hope Kelly writes a similar book for Buffalo. Thanks to Michael for the pointer.

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