Holly Clemmons was pretty, but not in any Florida way. Her hair was so richly black, it seemed to absorb all the light around her, swallow it right up, an antipodal halo, and her eyes were black, too, which was how she came by the name a select group of friends called her: Midnight. In contrast, her skin was white as bone dust, wafer-thin, almost translucent, but with a luminous glow, as though there were a bulb beneath it. Good skin. Face was narrow with nice sharp angles and planes, same as the body, nothing rounded anywhere, no backside and scarcely any breasts, all fine even lines. A model’s body, long and elegant. It sent out extraordinary signals. She looked smashing there, all five-ten of her in ass-grabber jeans and a summer blouse, perched on a stool in the Park Place Lounge, and she knew it.
commentary: There’s been slim pickings lately when Col wanders over from his Criminal Library – there’ve been Mitfords, and Golden Age Queens of Crime, and books with a lot of clothes (of all things to find here) – not really his kind of thing, I was feeling sorry for him. So when he recommended this one as being one of his ‘favourite books of all time’ I decided it was worth the £2.95 it cost on Kindle and I gave it a go.
On the plus side, I do like a hardcore American thriller about lowlifes from time to time. These were the opening lines:
Every quack at the table was fried but one, and since that was the same one had been shorting the pot all night, Waverly had to fear for the quality of health care in the republic. The game was low ball, five card. Three were already down. The five-and-dime cheater, Sven Fish by name, was doing the dealing.Total incomprehensibility appeals to me. And so does Michigan: a state I have never visited, but one that’s home to some good books – the wondrous True North by Jim Harrison, the excellent Margaret Millar’s Vanish in an Instant, Robert Traver’s Anatomy of A Murder.
The story involves Tim Waverley, an over-educated ex-con and professional gambler, a man who might be said to have come down in the world. He now lives in Florida, but decides to revisit his home city of Traverse City, Michigan. There, by chance, he hooks up with the young woman above, and helps her to try to get her half-brother out of trouble - a young rich boy who has made the bad mistake of trying out a double-cross on a drugs deal. Some very vicious people are anxious to get the goods back, and don’t much care who might get wiped out along the way.
So far, so classic, and the plot sweeps along with a lot of action and violence and twists and turns, and many characters to keep track of. For me, the violence went too far – there is one very gruesome scene that I would like to erase from my memory – and I was not enthralled by the extreme racist and misogynistic language that came up. These slurs were from the mouths of obviously vile characters, but I was still quite shocked to have to read so many of them. So although the book was a quick read, it was just the wrong side of the line for me, and though I’m glad to have taken in this one, I probably won’t pursue Kakonis further. But if you like this kind of thing, this is most definitely the kind of thing you will like…
So it didn’t live up to the last book Col gave such a big shoutout to - William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel. That is one of my books of the year, it still gives me the shivers.
The picture is a fashion advert of the era.