Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Jason Starr and Ken Bruen's Max and Angela series

Another installment in our series on new American (and British and Irish and Australian and what not) hardboiled crime lit (and actually another installment in our on-going series on books I read during the Summer, but have been too busy to post about or have just simply forgotten): Jason Starr's and Ken Bruen's three books about Max Fisher and Angela Petrakos, Bust, Slide and The Max.

Jason Starr has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read Fake I.D. Luckily that book will soon (well, some time next year) be available for the American audiences, since it's an American masterpiece, a piece of great literature while it's also a great crime novel. Also Nothing Personal is a personal favourite (might be even better than Fake I.D., since it has a larger scope than the rather solipsistic Fake I.D.), alongside other novels of him. From Ken Bruen I'd read only Rilke on Black (1997) on which I thought it lacked plot, but was nevertheless an intriguing book. I'd of course heard and read everyone praise him, so I started their collaborative series from Hard Case Crime with great expectations.

And they were met. The best of the books is the first one, Bust, in which Max Fisher, a sleazy business man, hires someone to kill his wife. You can't go wrong with a book that has dialogue like this (the hired killer calls himself Popeye):

Max kissed her then said, "You know, the only thing I'm worried about is this Popeye character."
"Why?" Angela asked.
"First of all, I don't like his name."
"What's wrong with his name?"
"Come on, it's a fucking cartoon character. It's like I'm hiring Donald Duck to kill my wife."
"You can't expect him to use his real name. I mean, he has to protect himself, doesn't he?"
"Yeah, but couldn't he come up with something better, more hitman-like. I don't know, like, Skull, or Bones, or something like that."
"You can't judge somebody by their name."

These people sure are not winning any Nobel prizes, but Max Fisher is right to be a bit suspicious of Popeye. The book has tons of great dialogue and a twisty plot - stuff I'm born to read.

Slide continues in the same vein and is equally hilarious and trashy, and the writers make apt jokes about serial killer novels - this guy is just as dumb as I've always thought killers usually are. He just doesn't realize it. Max Fisher stands up among Jason Starr's other sociopathic anti-heroes, when he sets up a drug business and starts digging into hip hop.

The Max that doesn't seem to be out as yet contains more cursing than the other novels in the series (and maybe any other novel I've ever read), but it's more slack in its plot and could've been better. I had some trouble imagining some of the stuff in the book, especially with Max Fisher, who rises to the highest rank inside the prison. Yeah, I know, Bust and Slide are not exactly realistic either, but they were more plausible. The Max seems at times to be a bit too long inside joke. But make no mistake - I liked this just as fine. I like cursing in novels. I don't know why that is, but I find it entertaining.

All the books have great covers, like Hard Case Crime usually has, but the cover of The Max (by Glen Orbik) really promises more than it delivers - even though Angela Petrakos does get behind bars in a Lesbian jail... (Maybe they are playing with the readers' expectations. Hope I'm not giving anything away with this.)

1 comment:

Blue Tyson said...

Thanks. Actually ordered this one a couple of weeks ago.