Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Walkaway

(Scott Phillips)
I'm just a few chapters into The Walkaway (2002), Scott Phillips' second novel and both a sequel and a prequel to The Ice Harvest, his first.

It's been a pleasure to read, and if all crime fiction were this good, there would be none of this nonsense about genre fiction and serious fiction and literary fiction, and none of the slumming that leads reviewers to think they're paying a compliment when they call a novel a thinking man's crime book.  Instead, readers, reviewers, and critics would just accept that a novel's action can spring from a heist, and that that novel can still be touching and funny, unsentimental, harsh, and sometimes violent, and have much to say about the changing lives and times of its setting and characters.

Now, back to my reading.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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12 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

Nop argument here, Scott is the goods. THE ICE HARVEST and RUT are first-rate, though I think COTTONWOOD is his best. I didn't realize THE WALKAWAY was connected to ICE HARVEST. I'll add it to my list.

Thanks.

January 31, 2012  
Blogger Keith Rawson said...

The WALKAWAY is my favorite Phillips novel. Wayne Ogden is the sleaziest character in fiction and I simply love him. If you get the chance check out RUM,SODOMY, AND FALSE EYELASHES and THE ADJUSTMENT for more of Wayne's shenanigans

January 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, almost everything Scott writes his connected, sometimes across generations. Remember Sidney the bouncer in The Ice Harvest? He owns strip clubs and other businesses in The Walkaway. And the guy who walks away in The Walkaway is Gunther, who wound up with the money at the end of The Ice Harvest. And he's Sidney's stepfather-in-law.

January 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Keith, I''ve read both those books. But Wayne's scheming, baldfaced sleaziness comes across especially strongly in The Walkaway, I think.

January 31, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

if all crime fiction were this good, there would be none of this nonsense about genre fiction and serious fiction and literary fiction

Hear, hear. It would be even better if you dropped the modifier 'crime'. If all literary fiction were this good, there would be none of this nonsense about genre fiction, etc, etc.

You raved about The Ice Harvest, so I picked up Cottonwood when I came across it. Unlike The Ice Harvest, it was some kind of fucked-up western. It was OK. I finished it. But the book never really caught fire.

Phillips' refusal to stick with formula is laudable but it's not likely to help his sales. No writer ever got rich by confounding readers' expectations.

His self-promotion skills are weak, as well. His wehsite seems to be as dead as a parrot in a Monty Python sketch. As for his blog, some people have recurrences of cancer that are more frequent than his blog entries.

January 31, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! The trouble with Scott Phillips as a writer is that all he does is write.

I haven't read Cottonwood, either, but I think it's a kind of prequel to his other fiction. The Walkaway, set partly in 1989 and parly in 1952. includes several references to the town of Cottonwood, for example. So Cottonwood, set I think early in the 20th century or late in the nineteenth, might best be read after the other books.

There's nothing wrong with good formula writing, but it's exhilarating to read writing that doesn't break but rather ignores formula. I suppose I think of Phillips as a crime writer because I know him through crime-fiction conventions and because The Ice Harvest, of whic I saw the movie adaptation before I read the novel, is closer to tradiional crime-fiction territory,

January 31, 2012  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

This was how I felt reading Hypothermia by Indridason and Gunshot Road by Hyland, not to mention a slew of other "crime fiction."

February 01, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose one could occasionally forget one was reading a police story when reading Arnaldur.

February 01, 2012  
Blogger Sheiler said...

off topic, peter, I was thinking about your comment on adrian's blog about journalism, having spent your life in it, mucking around it, and I came across this link that details how the Chicago Trib is reinventing itself. not sure how it would apply to your particular dill pickle if at all, but maybe it's relevant:

Click here for Chicago Trib elf (magical and otherwise) sighting

Also:
"As for his blog, some people have recurrences of cancer that are more frequent than his blog entries."

hardy har har!

February 01, 2012  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

You're preaching to the choir! Honestly, I think every genre contains some junk and some gems. The proportions vary by genre, but crime fiction is blessed with some awfully damn fine writers.

February 01, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sheiler, I can't read that article carefully because I have to get out this cafe where I'd come for a peaceful lunch, only to find that the counterman thinks thudding disco music is suitable accompaniment to a quiet cup of coffee. My thoughts on a quick glance at the article are that yes, the industry needs people like this woman, who can figure out how to bring money in. My second thought is that the anyone who can use words like "metrics" and "play" the way he does needs an editor.

But thanks. I'll look at the article more carefully when i'm in a more civilized environment.

February 01, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kelly, you're right -- and some of the finest of those writers have trouble selling books and getting publishing deals. I don't think readers and publishers are hostile good writing as much as they are leery of anything that's too different. And The Walkaway is very different from most crime novels. It's a fine book that happens to have a crime or two as its kernel, and I think a book like that is apt to have trouble finding an audience.

February 01, 2012  

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