Saturday, March 18, 2006

Max Phillips's Fade To Blonde

Like your stuff fast and mean? Fancy your dames dangerous, your guys tough and brutal? Then Max Phillips's Fade To Blonde is just a book for you. It was one of the first books that the retro paperback publisher Hard Case Crime put out just about a year ago and I only now got to read it. (I'm way behind in my readings anyway, so don't try any bullshit.)

It's quite an astonishing achievement, Phillips's book, because there's no way you could tell whether it was really written in the late fifties where it's set (or is the very early sixties?) or not. The sex scenes are more explicit than they could've been in the fifties, but then again, some of the original noir paperbacks were pretty explicit to start with. What's funny (to me, at least) is that it's set in the same world as my unpublished Joe Novak novel The Dostoyevsky Reel: the world of Hollywood fringes, B-films, unemployed extras, smut films etc.

What's more entertaining is that Phillips has a sure eye for wisecracks and cynical dialogue. Here's a treat (I'm a lazy ass, so I picked this up from the sample chapter at the Hard Case site):
"In case his friends might not like you."
"Always got one, two, even three guys along, and never the same ones. He must purely hate to be alone."
"Guys," I said.
"Okay," he said.
"What would one man need with so many?"
"Beats me. ’Course, if you got three, you can play a game of bridge. How’s that gimlet?"
"Good," I said truthfully. "How’s business?"

So, if you like fifties-style hardboiled stuff that doesn't play too fast with the super guns à la Sin City or doesn't sink into the weary world of pastichedom, Fade To Blonde is just your book.

(I understood that Max Phillips is actually a literary novelist of some merit. His second novel, The Artist's Wife (Fade was his third, if I understood correctly) is about Alma Mahler. His first was called Snakebite Sonnet and it is a love story that lasts for over 20 years, beginning when the protagonist is 10.)

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