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  • TITLE: Dia De Los Muertos
  • AUTHOR: Kent Harrington

    Although Noir has been stuck to this novel like a post-t-note, don't expect the roman noir of Jim Thompson, Frederic Brown, or David Goodis. This is post-Pulp Fiction, or what I like to call Neo Not-Noir, where that clawing in your gut is not the acid reflux of despair, but the bellyache of Black Comedy. Both Noir and so-called Neo-Noir have great contemporary pundits like Crumley and Kent Anderson, both of which have blurbed this work, but Harrington's comic relief has more Roadrunner cartoon in it than, say, Chili Palmer's cool deliveries, or Charles Willeford's sardonicism. By soiling into the slumscape of Tijuana for its tale of coyotes and rat patrols, corrupt DEA officers and Policia thugs, all vying to stain the bordercrosser's pesos with blood and drugs, this novel can't help but walk over the gravesite of Touch of Evil, the last, true Film Noir masterpiece. But don't confuse its 500-lb fatman character as a nod to Hank Quinlan. That would be like re-casting Peter Lorre in the Falcon's Kasper Gutman role.

    In fact, Harrington, like myself, has probably seen too many movies and chewed through too many post-WWII dime novels. The plot seems too much like a series of scenes; flashback does not weave through the storyline, but punches in like an addendum for motivation; dialogue has the rhythm of two-shot, medium shot, close-up; major action peaks are cutaways, not drive-throughs. As gritty and horrific as this novel can be, it all feels like I've seen it before. May I suggest Kitten With A Whip? It also deals in cliches about white folks bleeding out their climaxes in Tijuana.

    If you haven't guessed it by now, I don't think this work adds much to the traditional genre's canon. But it is 244 pages fast, dances well with a gut full of Cuervo, and doesn't buzz you afterward with pestering question marks. And that's good enough for me.


    © copyright 02/23/2008 by Larry Crawford

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