Monday, May 30, 2016

Arthur Lyons: The Dead Are Discreet

Arthur Lyons is one of those now forgotten private eye writers who brought some seriousness to the genre, following in the footsteps of Chandler's later novels and Ross Macdonald, shying away from Mickey Spillane's evangelist violence and Brett Halliday's light-heartedness. I don't think many read Lyons now, and there are no Finnish translations.

I'd read earlier one of Lyons's Jacob Asch novels and liked it a bit, so I decided I'd try another one. I'd found a used copy of a No Exit Press reprint of Lyons's first novel, The Dead Are Discreet (originally from 1974), and started to read it while we were at the summer cottage. I had to bring the book to town, since I didn't have time to finish it at the cabin. Jacob Asch is a grumpy and lonely man, in the normal tradition of the hardboiled private eye literature. In this book, his first outing, he tackles the early seventies' Californian milieu of Satan worshippers and other firm believers of the occult.

The premise is intriguing, but The Dead Are Discreet was a disconcerting experience for me. I like Asch's character and Lyons keeps the story moving, but the image of homosexuals as sick perverts was disgusting - and, mind you, also clichéd. It's very much of its time, and I don't think Lyons would make this kind of book any more (he's not writing, though, he died some years back).


Elgin Bleecker said...

Nice review, Juri. Thanks. Interesting to see how badly some attitudes wear over time.

jurinummelin said...

They sure do, faster than writing and characters. It's a shame in this case, since I wanted to like this book.

Todd Mason said...

Maybe even a bit retrograde for its time by the early '70s...though such films as VANISHING POINT were certainly still in that camp (so to write).

jurinummelin said...

Remember CRUISING, it's from 1980. It's ambiguous, I know, but still.