Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 11, 2015

(From the archives)

Jared Case is a graduate of The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and the Head of Cataloging for the motion picture collection of the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. He is the curator of the film noir series that runs in January and February at the Dryden Theater

DIE DREAMING, Terence Faherty

Owen Keane is the perfect example of a character that illuminates the prosaic by highlighting the idiosyncratic. His background is like no other: On a religious retreat between his junior and senior years in high school he came across a boy who claimed he could talk to God. When this claim was proven a deceit, his faiths were shaken: his faith in God, his faith in Man, and his faith in The Truth. This event was never far from him, and his crises of faith were internalized, affecting his belief in God, his belief in himself, and his belief in his ability to find the truth. Hoping to tackle all of these crises simultaneously, he abandoned Mary, the woman who would be the love of his life, and entered the seminary. When his failure at the seminary coincided with Mary’s abandonment of him for his college roommate, Harold Ohlman, Owen began to wander, doing odd menial jobs, and ending up in a liquor store. In a fit of pique, he attended his tenth high school reunion under the guise of a private investigator, and Owen Keane, the amateur detective was born.
This backstory is specific enough to be unique, and yet the sum is the same for many of us. Our lives have been an accumulation of events that led us to question the world around us. And to this end, Owen Keane has many of the same investigative tools we all do. As a fan mystery fiction and mystery film, Owen has been indoctrinated into all the tropes and clich├ęs of the detective’s process. His experience is our experience as he references Dashiell Hammett, or Nero Wolfe, or Double Indemnity. This makes him acutely self-aware of his place in the genealogy of detective fiction, but the broad shoulders he stands on don’t prevent him from jumping to the wrong conclusion or following a lead because he hopes it to be true. His failings are our failings, even as his cynical, self-deprecating exterior belies an underlying belief in the goodness of men and women, and the belief that he will be able to effect positive change through the search for truth.
In fact, his currency is truth. Rarely does he get paid for his services, and even then it only covers expenses. But if he can uncover the truth, not necessarily for himself, and not even necessarily for the victim, it adds to a growing tapestry of truth, something that he can point to as a basis for a belief in his ability to find the truth, which supports a belief in himself and in mankind, which holds up the possibility of a belief in the existence and effectiveness of God, despite the fact that faith requires neither proof nor support. Yet this is what drives him to toil in the long shadows of Sam Spade, Nick Charles and Travis McGee.
DIE DREAMING, the fourth book in Terence Faherty’s “Owen Keane” series, is perhaps the best, taking this mystery-fan/faith-in-crisis context and grafting it onto a mystery story that inverts the mystery story expectation of beginning-middle-end. Owen Keane, 28 and feeling a bit of a failure, decides to play a self-deprecating joke on his high school classmates, The Sorrowers, by running an ad for the Owen Keane Detective Agency in the 10th reunion program. But one of The Sorrowers is a jokester herself and sets up a fake mystery to lure Owen into an embarrassing situation. Owen falls for the ruse, but is saved by another classmate. In the meantime, however, a true mystery surfaces when loose lips mention an event that was suppressed 10 years ago and that tied The Sorrowers together in a code of secrecy. Owen’s investigation stumbles along, following false leads and shaky assumptions, but his dogged determination does eventually reveal the truth. It also reveals that there are as many victims as perpetrators, and in the end Owen decides that the truth, now discovered, is sometimes better left buried.
This decision comes into question 10 years later when one of The Sorrowers turns up dead. Owen must come to terms with his responsibility in the death and determine whether the truth did come out, and if someone would kill to keep it hidden. His investigation takes him back to his hometown and his 20th high school reunion. He starts to look at The Sorrowers and the mysterious event that took place 20 years ago, but he has to take into account the changes that have taken place in the last 10 years, when the end of his last investigation became the beginning of this new crime. He discovers that relationships are even more complex than they appeared, and that crimes can have implications generations removed from the original event itself.
There is no better feeling than finding a piece of art that resonates with you, unless you get to share that discovery with someone else. Terence Faherty and Owen Keane were such a discovery for me, and I hope that, by sharing the discovery with you, they will pass from the realms of the forgotten.

Sergio Angelini, THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, Lionel White
Yvette Banek, THE HOG'S BACK MYSTERY, Freeman Wills Croft
Bill Crider, CUT ME IN, Ed McBain
Scott Cupp, THE FACE IN THE FROST, John Bellairs 
Martin Edwards, THE NURSING HOME MURDER, Ngaio Marsh
Rick Horton, Ace Double: Rocannon's World, by Ursula K. Le Guin/The Kar-Chee Reign, by Avram Davidson
Jerry House, THE MURDER OF ANN AVERY, Henry Kuttner

Margot Kinberg, BLUE MONDAY, Nicci French 
Rob Kitchin, Lennox, Craig Russell 
Kate Laity, HIGHSMITH: A ROMANCE OF THE 1950s, Marijane Meeker
B.V. Lawson, A WOMAN ON THE EDGE, Elizabeth George 
Steve Lewis, TIME GONE BY, William Heffernan 
Todd Mason, 1965, the short fiction annuals 
J.F. Norris, DEATH GOES TO SCHOOL, Q. Patrick
Matt Paust, A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, Walter M. Miller 
James Reasoner, QUEEN OF THE MARTIAN CATACOMBS, Leigh Brackett
Richard Robinson, SPIKE OF SWIFT RIVER, Jack O'Brien
Kerrie Smith, PENGUIN POOL MURDERS, Stuart Palmer 
Kevin Tipple, SHIFTING IS FOR THE GOYIM, Elizabeth Zelvin
TomCat, WHAT DREAD HAND, Christiana Brand
TrackK, SEASONS OF SNOW AND SINS, Patricia Moyes 
Westlake Review, ORDO, Donald Westlake
Zybahn, A COLD DAY IN PARADISE, Steve Hamilton


K. A. Laity said...

I did one under my crime name:

Jeff Meyerson said...

Let me add to that review by recommending the short story collection THE CONFESSIONS OF OWEN KEANE (from Crippen & Landru). Faherty is on my "favorite mystery short story writers" list.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm not getting any review at that address, Kate.

Todd Mason said...

Patti...slim chance that Kate's will come through thus:
removing the Secure indicator...I can bring hers up either way.

And my larval version is up, and will be added to over the course of time!
1965: the short fiction annuals (and their dramatic cousin)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Don't know what you mean by Secure indicator. I can go to the site but don't see any reviews other than Kate's books.

Todd Mason said...

The http vs. the https in the first part of the HIGHSMITH review's address. The latter is the Secure version. Does the address I pasted above,

take you anywhere when pasted into your browser? It will take me directly to Kate's post.

And thanks for wrestling with all I finally get to the Tuesday's Overlooked on Friday...some, work, including household repair and medium to heavy cleaning Really wiped me out on Tuesday. Just recovering.

J F Norris said...

My post is up:

Death Goes to School by Q. Patrick

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanks for including me Patti, as always.

RTD said...

As always, you have another great list of books worth considering. If you would be willing to do so, perhaps you will pass the word via this link to your many followers:
I hope dozens of mystery readers accept the challenge.

TracyK said...

Thanks for including my review, Patti. I enjoyed the review of the book by Faherty; I know I have heard of his books, but I don't think I had heard about the Owen Keane series.

Al Tucher said...

Thanks for the reminder. I've been meaning to go back to Terence Faherty and Owen Keane.

Anonymous said...

I must get to know Owen Keane better, Patti... And thanks for including my post.

Mathew Paust said...

Enjoyed Jared's review of Die Dreaming so much that I immediately went looking for it, in our library (which has nothing by Terence Faherty) and on Amazon. All of the Owen Keane series apparently are out of print. Rather than order a used copy, which I might do at some point, I downloaded a Kindle edition of The Hollywood Op, a collection of stories by Faherty. He sounds like way too interesting a writer to be ignored.