Friday, July 31, 2009

Jason Starr's Panic Attack, part 2

Will try to say something about this. I've been working almost all day (save for dropping at a thrift store earlier today) and I'm getting a bit tired, but, hey, I promised!

Jason Starr, as you probably know, is one of my favourite authors. He is one of the few American writers, crime or mainstream, dealing with depression, codependence problems, unemployment and male anxiety. He writes about sociopaths and psychopaths and makes them very much alive and not some near-mythical creatures à la Hannibal Lecter. Starr's also a true noir author who doesn't have to retort to pastiche, bringing up old hardboiled clichés (he also doesn't have to use gory violence to make his point). His books Fake I.D. and Nothing Personal are, for me, the ultimate noir experience.

His new novel, which is just out, Panic Attack is a very strong foray into a insecure world of a psychiatrist who doesn't realize his life is a mess: his wife doesn't love him, his daughter hates him. And now his house is being broken into, in middle of the night. What does he do? A peaceful man with many problems, some he doesn't know about, shoots the perpetrator. Not once, but ten times. A public hunt begins: can we live in peace with this kind of vigilantes running loose? The psychiatrist's life is torn apart.

And that's only the beginning. Enter Johnny, handsome, skilful, young, a conman. He's the ultimate sociopath in any literature. And you don't know he's dangerous when he's near you. He was the best friend of the man who got shot and he wants revenge.

Panic Attack is a very frightening novel with many truly chilling scenes and I liked it just as much as any Jason Starr book. There's just one problem. The book is too long. I don't really know why this is, but Starr's books have gotten longer in the past few years. I was a bit worried about it when I read his earlier novel, The Follower (which also was very chilling), but now I have to say it out loud: if Starr's books get any longer, they are on the verge of become "telling, not showing". In Panic Attack, Starr goes elaborately through people's emotions, when a simple passage or a piece of dialogue might suffice. Sometimes it takes away some of the enjoyment of the irony he uses depicting his characters and revealing something new about them.

But even that being said, I remind you once again that Panic Attack is a very good novel. Do check out also Fake I.D. that was out recently from Hard Case Crime.

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