Saturday, August 02, 2014

"Hell ... with a good electrician"

You know that nighttime view of Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills that you've seen in a million movies and television shows? (At right, if your memory needs refreshing.)

Here's how the narrator of Alfred Hayes' 1958 novel My Face for the World to See assesses that view:
"Besides, she’d heard it before: I was sure she’d heard it all before . Possibly in a scene that was a close duplicate of this: the car parked in the hills, and two cigarettes, and the town below looking as hell might with a good electrician."
That ought to be enough to persuade anyone that the book, which appeared when disillusion with Hollywood was becoming a staple of American popular culture, is a good deal more that just another self-pitying rant. Even at his most morose and detached, the narrator can crack wise in even better than the best hard-boiled style. And, while the novel is not crime, it is hard-boiled, noir, even.

Elsewhere, I've picked up Brian Garfield's Checkpoint Charlie, a collection of spy stories, hard-boiled but with a touch of the British-style eccentric detective to its protagonist, somewhat in the manner of Frank McAuliffe's wonderful Augustus Mandrell or Michael Gilbert's equally wonderful Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens.  Garfield's creation is not quite up that level, but I like very much the author's description of the character in the volume's introduction (highlighting mine.)::
"He really enjoys only two things: eating, and practicing his trade."
Eating--rather than the more delicate food or, the even delicater fine dining--lets the readers know that their just may be an edge to this Charlie.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Blogger Loren Eaton said...

What a killer quote. Thanks for sharing, Peter.

August 04, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Just when I thought it was impossible to come up with a fresh put-down line about Los Angeles, I read that one. It is thoroughly in the cynical hard-boiled spirit, but a lot wittier than most such efforts.

August 04, 2014  

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