Friday, 20 February 2009

A Wee Review - Once Were Cops by Ken Bruen


I’ve noted in a previous post that 2008 was a great year for Ken Bruen and his fans. The Max (co-written with Jason Starr), American Skin (UK and Ireland edition), Sanctuary (UK and Ireland edition) and Once Were Cops (US edition) were all released last year. Having just finished Once Were Cops I’m now three for four on reading and reviewing these titles. Sanctuary will have to wait until I’ve read the other Jack Taylor novels, but I will get there. More than likely this year.

So, Once Were Cops --

Violence, corruption and heartache?

What do you think?

Sparse?

Buddy, you betcha.

Poetry in prose?

More so than American Skin, even.

Bruen was still able to make me burn with jealousy by delivering a killer line or two per page, but in this case, it was an even more impressive feat. There's not a whole lot of prose on those pages. The book’s typesetting is pretty idiosyncratic, (hanging line indents and white space between mostly single sentence paragraphs) but teamed up with Ken’s ability to deliver a knockout punch in three or four words, this worked to increase the urgency in the writing. Once Were Cops is a short book, but even so, for me to finish it in little over a day is something close to remarkable. I’m not exactly blessed with an excess of reading time these days. Thankfully, Bruen weaves his usual magic that keeps you reading, “Just one more paragraph, page or chapter!” It forced me to find the time.

Did he blow this reader away?

Sure, doesn’t he always? May as well have swung a hurling stick at me.

As with American Skin, Bruen uses both strict first person and shifting third person. The anti-hero, Michael O'Shea (AKA Shea), is the sole-focus of the intimate first person scenes, and through it, Bruen fully explores a blacker-than-night mind. A driven sociopath. A complete and utter... Well, Ken Bruen tells it better. Best you just read it and learn more about Shea from him.

Outside of Shea, we’ve a good cast of intriguing characters, but Kebar stands head and shoulders above them all, both physically and metaphorically. A big ol’ NYC psycho-cop, it’s inevitable that Shea, an Irish guard on an exchange programme with the NYPD, should be teamed up with him. What isn’t quite expected is how each of these cops relates to the other, and who gets what from whom. Cryptic? Yeah, sorry about that, but I want you to get what I got from this book without me interfering. So, I’m not even going to tell you about the short cameo at the start of the novel. It’s a good one, though.

In conclusion, Once Were Cops is so good that I’m itching to reread it already.

What more can I say?

4 comments:

adrian mckinty said...

Loved OWC.

Seriously I dont know how he does it.

Brilliant every time out of the gate.

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Like I said in the interview, he makes me jealous as hell, but his work's such a pleasure to read I can forgive him every time.

gb

adrian mckinty said...

maybe its all to do with swan feeding...

shooter said...

will there be a follow up to the AMAZING Once Were Cops?