Shannon Clute is the co-creator, with Richard Edwards, of the "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" and "Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writer Revealed" podcasts (www.noircast.net)
Paul Auster, New York Trilogy
The first paragraph of the first page of the first novella of Paul Auster's New York Trilogy ends with the line, "The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell." That sentence sets up the fundamental epistemological impasse of these three novellas ("City of
Part Poe, part Oulipo, part nouveau roman, true, but there is far more to these tales than the Borges-eque pleasure of navigating such labyrinthine narrative structures. These metaphysical investigations are deeply human to the extent that the detective's quest for meaning has real stakes. To try and make sense of the world is to determine how to live. To renounce this inquest is to die, or kill. In other words, the novellas work because Auster understands detective fiction not just cognitively, but viscerally. He'd worked it all out three years before "City of
Which leads me to reflect upon my reasons for choosing The New York Trilogy as a "forgotten" book—an unusual choice in that the novel has never gone out of print, and recently appeared in a new illustrated edition. Wouldn't Squeeze Play have been the more obvious choice? Certainly it was more in keeping with many previous installments of "Friday's Forgotten Books," which recuperate, from memory, a book that is out of print and lost to the reviewer. Not so fast, I thought. Didn't Quinn get himself in trouble by assuming he understood the meaning of the request, and the parameters of the exercise? Didn't Ishmael, and Anton Voyl, and all my favorite doomed investigators? I thought it was only right to go back to the beginning, to take the request at it's word. "Forget": etym. "to miss or lose one's hold." To get a hold of something one has lost hold of, or perhaps failed to grasp in the first place? Something of a logical impasse. I soon found myself in a free fall, through a mise en abyme of negations behind definitions, of questions within questions. The New York Trilogy slithered into that void—a gossamer thread to somewhere outside, a fine line to nowhere, or the noose that guys like me can hang themselves with? I grabbed it. What choice was there, really?
Libby Fischer Hellmann, An Easy Innocence
My favorite “forgotten” novel is Briarpatch by Ross Thomas. I’d already published three novels when I stumbled onto it, but when I did, I instantly knew why I write the books I do. Its structure, style, and substance are an indispensable template, and its dog-eared pages will stay in my library forever.
Briarpatch is a structural chameleon. Technically, it’s an amateur sleuth novel. Ben Dill, a Senate staffer in
The prose in Briarpatch -- spare, lucid, silky -- is just this side of
I grew up in
But perhaps the novel’s most attractive – and durable -- quality is that it’s a story lightly told. Briarpatch never screams or calls attention to itself. Its complexity sneaks up on you-- until you realize you’re in the hands of a master and you’ve been reading a classic. It deserves to be “rediscovered.”
David Thompson, Owner, Busted Flush Press
David Handler's Series
David Thompson here... by day, assistant manager of
A little about this series: Stewart "Hoagy" Hoag was once America's brightest new novelist... the next Bret Easton Ellis, the next F. Scott Fitzgerald... and then his second novel was a flop, and he was forced to ghostwrite memoirs and other books, which is where the series picks up. And when he'd hit rock-bottom, a further casualty was his marriage to Broadway star Merilee Nash. Now, they share custody of their neurotic, yet faithful basset hound, Lulu, though she's mainly in Hoagy's care. No, Lulu doesn't talk... she doesn't solve the mystery... she's simply, a dog. Well, as much as Asta was "simply" a dog... and what a way to seque into comparisons to the Thin Man films... Handler has written a terrifically witty, fun, intelligent mystery series, influenced as much by b&w screwball comedies as classic crime fiction. These books should appeal to hard-/soft-boiled and cozy fans alike. I cannot recommend these books more highly.
So, back in the late-'80s, after two modestly successful paperback originals -- THE MAN WHO DIED LAUGHING and THE MAN WHO LIVED BY NIGHT -- David Handler produced THE MAN WHO WOULD BE F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, which ended up winning the Edgar for Best PBO. And what does he get from his publisher? They let the first two go out-of-print... yet continued to sign him to further two-book contracts... disappointed in sales performance (well, what do you expect?? no one wants to start a series with #4), he was dropped.
Years later, another major published came knocking at Handler's door... they wanted to reprint all of the books. However, they decided to start with #3, THE MAN WHO WOULD BE F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, the Edgar winner. We begged and pleaded... everyone wanted the first two, which were by this time very hard to find... #3 had been kept in print for years, so anyone could find readily available used copies online and in used bookstores. When #3 flopped, they decided not to reprint the rest.
Third time's a charm... I hope. To date, BFP has reprinted the first four books in this, one of my all-time favorite series!! And many employees' at our store, too. More than any other writer, David Handler inspired me to create Busted Flush Press. He has another, equally entertaining series from St. Martin's Minotaur (starring a pudgy yet lovable NYC film critic and a female resident state trooper from
THE MAN WHO DIED LAUGHING / THE MAN WHO LIVED BY NIGHT (1st two in the Hoagy/Lulu series, in one volume from Busted Flush Press)
THE COLD BLUE BLOOD (the first Mitch Berger / Desiree Mitry mystery, in paperback from
Blackburn by Bradley Denton.
The best serial killer book ever written, bar none. The killer is the
protagonist, and while he murders scores of people, he is one of the most
compelling, memorable, and sympathetic, characters in modern fiction.
The prose is gorgeous, it's loaded with memorable scenes, and
the ending always chokes me up.
This isn't Silence of the Lambs, and certainly not Dexter, even though it
has its amusing moments. In fact, it's more lit fic than thriller.
But don't let that put you off. Blackburn is one of the most wonderful, heart-rending books
you'll ever read, and worthy of the cult following it has accrued.
Check the rest out. A few might go up late
In anticipation of next week's children's books here are three to spur you on: