Tuesday, August 02, 2016

My Bouchercon 2016 panel: The Scene, by Clarence Cooper Jr.

Clarence Cooper Jr.'s 1960 novel The Scene is so harrowing and so heartbreaking in places that a careless reader might be tempted to call the novel authentic and leave it at that.

Cooper was a heroin addict who spent much of his short life in prison, and the scene of the novel's title is a neighborhood and a state of being not just controlled but defined by heroin.  Cooper may well have written out of firsthand knowledge, but what makes The Scene great are the sympathetic detachment it displays toward its many significant characters, its cunningly fragmented narrative, and its sly allusions to crime fiction conventions.

It takes a gifted writer to get away with all that. It takes a writer at least bordering on great to get away with all that and make it serve the story the novel has to tell.  It's early days yet, but The Scene may be my crime fiction discovery of the year.

Poster by Jon Jordan
Gary Phillips will discuss Clarence Cooper Jr. as part of a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans in September. The panel is called "From Hank to Hendrix: Beyond Chandler and Hammett: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Original Eras," and it happens at 9 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Marriott, 555 Canal St., New Orleans. The room is LaGalleries 1. See you all there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Blogger Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Peter, that's high praise for a novel I'd be fool to overlook. I will try and get hold of a copy.

August 04, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I found my copy through ABE Books. I'm not sure it's still in print.

Clarence Cooper was new to me, and that's one reason I love moderating these Beyond Chandler and Hammett panels: The panelists choose the writers they want to discuss, and that means a couple of exciting discoveries for me each year. The Scene is a brilliant book, and I am grateful to Gary Phillips for introducing me to Cooper.

August 04, 2016  

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