Thursday, April 11, 2013

Five Years of Friday's Forgotten Books, Day 11

Charlie Huston is the author of Every Last Drop and Half the Blood in Brooklyn (bio as of 2008)

Complicity by Iain Banks

I don't know if it counts as a forgotten book, more like a
book that no one has ever heard of, but Iain Banks'
"Complicity" deserves to be known.
Broke in New York, I stumbled across the 1996 Bantam mass market edition.
I'd heard about Banks' cult novel "The Wasp Factory," but had never been
able to find a copy.  On a flier I purchased this conveniently inexpensive
substitute.  To this day I know of only one other person in the United
States who has read this former #1 British best seller, and I loaned that
reader my copy, the only copy I have ever seen in person.  "Listen," I told
him, "I generally don't loan books.  I give them away.  If I have something
on my shelves that I want someone to read, I give them the book.  I don't
want to ever worry about getting a book back.  But this book, I can't lose
the book.  I really want you to read it, but you have to get it back to me.
The covers can be torn and the pages dogeared, but I have to have this book
back."  He read it, bowed down to it, and returned it to me via registered
express mail.  What's it about?  Told from two points of view (first person
reporter and second person killer), it's a cat and mouse about a serial
killer going about Britain and Scotland killing people in brutally
appropriate styles to suit their real or perceived crimes.  Been there and
done that you have, but not with a writer up to Banks' snuff.  The
complicity of the title is not just related to protagonist journalist
Cameron Colley's possible involvement in the crimes he's investigating, but
the reader's own involvement and enjoyment of the crimes.  Putting the
reader in the front row of every murder with his second person narration,
Banks lets us stick the knife in, or close the book if we can't take it.
And trust me, there are bits that will be hard to stomach.  That complicity
exists at another level as well.  How much enjoyment can you draw from the
grotesque when you are cast as the executioner?  You can read the book with
an eye toward answering that question, or you can skip over the morality
play and just rip through the pages as quickly as possible.  A mad fucking
read, there are dozens of new and used copies available online, most of them
seem to be a 2002 Simon and Schuster TPB that I knew nothing about.


George said...

It's tragic that Iain Banks has less than a year to live. His cancer isn't treatable. I've read several of Banks' SF novels.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It is. The only one I have read is Wasp Factory.

Todd Mason said...

THE WASP FACTORY is a very annoying novel (did you find the revelations even remotely convincing, Patti?). But that doesn't lessen the real life horror of his situation, even a scrap.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, I've been saddened to hear of Banks' illness.