I like to think that this book offers early examples of a tendency Hughes exploited more fully later : that of dealing with Raymond Chandler's themes, only more explicitly than Chandler ever did. This applies to sex, pornography, drugs, and family secrets, but also to issues of class, especially the class divide between investigator and clients. This almost always works, though in one instance the explicitness leads to the grave sin of telling rather than showing. (I could be wrong about the path from Chandler to Hughes, though, since I'm unfamiliar with one of the stops Hughes made along the way: Ross Macdonald.)
In the meantime, some lines from the book's first quarter or so, all but one of them good:
"Tommy being sober wasn't easy for me either, since he'd asked me to act informally as his sponsor. I explained that, since I had no intention of stopping drinking, this mightn't be the wisest idea."Hughes also quotes almost directly at least one line from The Big Sleep and has some self-referential fun doing so:
"I'm not sure if there are ideal conditions to watch porn, but sober before midday doesn't even come close."
"I looked at Tommy, who was lying about at least some of it, of course, but who had worked himself into believing that he had told the whole truth and nothing but."
"Mr. Loy, mathematics scholars are not exactly coming down with offers of twosomes, let alone, ah, exponentials thereof."
"His Trinity manner had become grander, his voice a fluted drawl. I could feel the class boundary rising to divide us."
"`I make many mistakes,'" he said in an arch, ironic tone, as if he was quoting a line from a movie."(Read my discussions of Hughes' novels City of Lost Girls, All the Dead Voices, The Price of Blood, and The Wrong Kind of Blood)
© Peter Rozovsky 2011