Friday 28 August 2009

Where The Dead Lay - David Levien

Girls have chick-lit and chickflicks, but what do guys have ? The only equivalent term I can think of starts with a d and rhymes with chicklit but I think that would probably get me censored and blacklisted so I'll just have to say, much as I hate broad generalisations, this is one for the guys. And I'm a girl, so this is probably not going to be my favourite book of the year.

The book jacket sets the scene - the atmosphere is dark and brooding, a man stands alone, gun at his side, with the strapline "How far will one man go to avenge a friend's murder ?" And that, in a nutshell, is it. You can imagine there will be violence and menace, a no-holds-barred investigation and tough interrogations, screeching car chases and life and death drama. And it has got all of that in bucketloads. It's fast-paced and exciting from beginning to end.

But it lacks depth and detail. There are no physical descriptions or psychological analyses of any of the characters and to be honest, none of the characters are particularly nice. In fact, apart from the lead character, Frank Behr, who redeems himself in the closing chapters by finding a conscience and revealing a little of his past, all of the characters are downright evil ! So the reader feels distanced and doesn't really care what happens to any of them. By laying out all of the clues for the reader, giving him knowledge and joining the dots that Behr cannot do until much later, the author maintains this distance and ensures that we watch Behr's drama unfold as a spectator, for entertainment, rather than identifying with him and sharing his mindspace.

Right from the beginning, I had almost the impression I was reading a film script. The focus was on the action, not the people or places, and some of the scenes would be fantastic on screen. The closing chapters seemed much too hasty and convenient to me, with all the loose ends tied up in breath-taking showdowns within a few pages, but this same unlikely crescendo would be outstanding for wrapping up a film. It therefore came as no surprise to see that the author, David Levien, is one of Hollywood's top screenwriters.

I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. For me, it's one of those instances where the film would be better than the book. Imagine Tarantino writing a novel and you'll know exactly what to expect !

star rating : 3,5/5

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Bantam Press (2 Jul 2009)
ISBN-10: 0593059344
ISBN-13: 978-0593059340

1 comment:

  1. David Levien is one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood, and co-writer for Ocean's Thirteen and Runaway Jury; his writing is superb! Where the Dead Lay is his second novel featuring Frank Behr. May Frank live well and continue long as one of the most formidable characters you will find in a long time! Yep! I loved it...and can't wait to read his first book, City of the Sun!


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