Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Don't Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman

In my misguided youth as a Memphis police detective, I wrecked a fair number of motor pool cars.

The narrator continues for the rest of the first paragraph to say he's damaged property and violated constitutional rights, often with a rolled-up phone book, which reminds me of an episode of Monk when Captain Stottlemeyer, without a phone book, improvises by whacking someone with a laptop computer instead. I mention this because I like stories that take old ideas and turn them around, even if only a little.

Even though this opening line is back story, it instantly establishes character and tone. As it is brief, the reader may not recognize that this novel actually begins with back story. The character/narrator that emerges, though is a bit of a cliche, the over the top Hollywood detective that in the opening pages reminds me of Dirty Harry as a disrespectful teenager, which is to say: This is fun to read. Reading on, it's even more hilarious as the narrator is an old man.

A scene unfolds quickly, beginning while still on page 1. The narrator has to explain why he went after someone with an axe. I start to sympathize with the character and want to read more about him. It isn't so much the situation that hooks as it is the character - who's interesting in the sense that he speaks his mind and is a take-it-as-it-comes kind of guy who is quite capable of shrugging off an axe attack. So this character is a breath of fresh air in a world where etiquette and politically correct speech suffocates pre-1990's conversation. That is: this is great escapist fiction with interesting dialogue, which gives the characters plenty of opportunity to express themselves and tell their own stories.

First thing said:

"What can I say?"

Verdict: Cool

The 4 stars are not so much for the opening line, but more for the overall opening pages with its mixture of tone, conflict, character and dialogue. Very easy to get pulled into this novel. My evening's just been - booked.

Theodore Moracht

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