Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dave White: When One Man Dies & The Evil That Men Do

I've said earlier that I really don't care about the recent private eye characters whose problems are worse than their clients. The major exception here is Reed Farrel Coleman, but on the whole I'd rather the private eyes would disappear if they turned sideways.

This didn't stop me enjoying Dave White's two novels, When One Man Dies (2007) and The Evil That Men Do (2009). In them, the private eye hero Jackson Donne suffers from many problems: he's only 28 and yet he's an alcoholic, his former colleagues at the police hate him, he's done nothing much to educate himself, he's alienated from his family and his girlfriend left him and died later from something Jackson Donne did.

In When One Man Dies Jackson Donne is having a drink and consoling himself for his ex's death, when an old, a bit weird but harmless man is run over by a car outsider the bar. Donne feels he has to look into the old man's death - he used to share drinks with the guy, after all -, but he runs into trouble when his old nemesis at the police force starts to investigate the same accident, only to do harm to Donne. Dave White spins an interesting story with many interlocking incidents, and even though the twists in the story sometimes feel a bit forced, it remains intriguing to the end. Jackson Donne's past mistakes in the police force are drawn into the center of the story, and it seems like he can never escape them.

The Evil That Men Do is the more powerful novel of the two and Jackson Donne is really deep in the story of his sister who asks Donne to check into what their old and ill mother has been talking about their granddad. Donne's PI license was taken out in the aforementioned book, but he decides nevertheless he can do this last favour to his family and to his dying mother. He finds out soon that there's a maniac on the loose to avenge something ancient to his family - but just what it is is clear only in the end, if even then. White tramples the ground between the plausible and the implausible, but manages to stay on the clean side with this.

There's one thing I didn't get accustomed easily: When One Man Dies is narrated both in Donne's first person narration and the third person narration in the other sections. In The Evil That Men Do Donne is being narrated through a third person narrative, which makes more sense. There are also scenes set in the late thirties, when White tells just what tragic happened in the past.

In the end feels like there can be no future for Jackson Donne. I asked Dave White if there are plans for other Jackson Donne novels, but he said he doesn't have a publication date for his next novel. I'm hoping there will be a new Donne book, if only to see what White does to make Donne rise from the ashes. (He writes in his blog, though, about a new manuscript. [Link above.])

Dave White is, by the way, a good example of how one can rise from the on-line ghetto of crime literature. The bunch of Jackson Donne short stories were first published in different venues in the web before White published his first book. And here's hoping he'll publish many more!

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