San Anselmo, CA, United States | Member Since 2006
This book begins well enough. It is the story of a teacher and writer named Thomas Abbey and his girlfriend Saxony. Tom takes a sabbatical year in which he decides to write a biography of his favorite author, a man named Marshall France. For the first half or so, the book is a well-written story, narrated by the always wonderful Edoardo Ballerini, which makes it a delightful experience just for that. However...(isn't there always a however?)... our heroes drive to the town of Galen, Missouri, and this is where the story escalates into a fable of delusional proportions. If you knew that this was going to be some variety of science fictionish work, that would be one thing. But, not having known that, the book becomes pretty preposterous. I can't help revealing the spoiler here, as it takes up almost half the book, and is, I suppose, the grand idea of Mr. Carroll's. The conceit here is that Marshall France has written a magnum opus in which he has created the entire town: all the people who live in it, precisely what they do, when they die, etc. He (France) also has the superpowers available to himself that he can make people die at his whim, or turn into dogs, etc. At first Tom and Saxony do not believe the tale, but they are fiercely sold on it by Anna, the author's daughter. Soon Tom is sleeping with Anna as well as Saxony. Since science fiction requires us to suspend our usual assumptions about life, the only way to enjoy this experience, I think, is to just not try to think too carefully about the entire conceit, as it will fall down like a house of cards on the briefest examination. France becomes a version of God. He apparently has written so voluminously into the past and the future of Galen that ordinary mortals would have taken lifetimes to do this alone, not to speak of writing work that will be marketed and sold to the public. (France's writing about Galen is a Big Secret.) Some of it has a Wizard of Oz quality: children might be mystified, but the outfits are made of cardboard, and pay no attention to that man...
I love Edoardo Ballerini as I love no other narrator. He does the absolute maximum with this material that he can. However, nothing can protect Tom from being the wimpy, passive academic that he is. He bounces from Saxony to Anna, begging each of them to make the decisions in his life that he is too paralyzed by OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) to make. By the end, you really are considering the possibility that it all really WAS a dream, a thing which worked in literature about 100 years ago.
I would only cautiously recommend this book, primarily for fellow lovers of Ballerini. His skills are so marvelous that they can elevate a lot of writing way above where it actually "deserves" to be. What a guy.
The above is a quote from Robert B. Parker, a guy who should know. I am now in the process of reading all of Mr. Perry's novels, and I am sad to say that there are only a couple left. The man is remarkable, and again, Michael Kramer is the perfect voice for these amazing books. Mr. Perry is the opposite of formulaic. His creativity and inventiveness seem to know no bounds. This book starts with a killing, and takes almost the whole book to solve it. Through the book we get to know a number of people who are so much flesh and blood that we might actually know them in real life. The villains, however, are so scary that we are glad not to know them. Each time I listen to one of these, I just can't imagine how Mr. Perry is going to top this one, and yet, he does. At times here the suspense is literally unbearable. The plot quickens to the point where I had to put it down to make it last longer, if you understand. I was tempted to just sit and listen to the whole thing, but summoned up enough will power to let it be. Once again Mr. Perry writes with wit that is sometimes understated and sometimes just hilarious. He skewers a rich man who is also a monster, and also his sycophantic wife, and their lives of sheltered unreality. This man hires a killer to stalk the wife of the detective who dies at the beginning, and the contest between the two of them is a war of wills and wits. Emily is another extremely well drawn woman, something which Mr. Perry does easily while other male writers struggle with their inability to write nothing but cardboard women. At first I thought that The Butcher's Boy could not be topped. Now I know that Mr. Perry's talents are truly limitless. Enjoy yourselves. Mr. Perry cannot be beat.
Robert B. Parker was one of this country's most prolific authors, in league with Elmore Leonard. Like Leonard, he simply wanted to entertain us, and he succeeded almost every time out. Likewise, Michael Prichard was an amazingly prolific performer (and may still be). And Joe Mantegna is also an incredibly prolific and likable actor and narrator. Choosing between these two narrators is like trying to choose between the best apple pie and the best peach pie: very hard to do. In Sixkill, Parker again puts Spenser in his usual slot: a very tough guy on the outside with a very tender inside. The dialogue is, as always, witty and brief. You start chuckling right out of the gate. Mantegna seems to have a little more trouble with the repetitive "he said, she said" stuff than Prichard. I seem to notice that less when hearing Prichard. Mantegna, OTOH, is a face many of us know from movies and TV, and his voice is that of a friendly guy who might live next door to you, who happens to be one of the best storytellers anywhere. The plot of Sixkill is really just an excuse for Spenser to act, to play the tough guy when he wants to and the tender lover of Susan Silverman when he needs to. Not that the plot is trifling: it is clever and tugs at your heartstrings, in some ways. Sixkill is a huge Indian who once played great football, but then fell down a terrible slide. Spenser takes him on as a project, and between Spenser and the talk-about-tough-but-silent Hawk, they reclaim Sixkill in a way that is very humane and caring. Parker was a genius. Both Prichard and Mantegna make him sound wonderful. I have only tried to listen to one book narrated by David Dukes, and I hated it. Sit down with Parker and have a great time.
This is Mr. Perry's first book, originally published in 1982. Although it's a little dated (a full gas tank, 12 gallons, for $10!) that is the only flaw I can find. Michael Connelly, one heck of a writer himself, has written an introduction to the book, which accurately describes Perry's awesome talent and assuredness. Connelly uses the word "velocity" as a description of plots that delight us, and this is the perfect word for Perry's plot. There are only two main characters, the unnamed professional hitman, and the Justice Department agent Elizabeth Weiser, plus many other characters. Perry cleverly alternates chapters between these two characters to hold our interest, and this is a very successful suspense device. The book flies by. The hitman takes on the Las Vegas mafia families single-handedly, and you believe that he can manage it. He is no non-human superhero, though. He is believable in every way. Likewise, Elizabeth is also a real human being, in the field reluctantly for the first time, and simultaneously doubtful and self-confident. You just have to read Perry's work to see how smoothly he creates these characters. He also sees Las Vegas as what it is, or was thirty years ago. The narration is flawless. Mr. Kramer understands the writer, and has narrated all of Mr. Perry's books. He is fluid and entertaining. He builds the suspense for us. You can never guess the plot's twists and turns. You will at one moment fully suspect that someone with a gun will sneak in the door, and then Mr. Perry surprises you. Even Elizabeth is surprised and hoodwinked. This is a terrific book, and I am sure that I will eventually listen to all of Mr. Perry's books. Great entertainment!
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