Wednesday, 1 April 2009
A Wee Review - Cold Caller by Jason Starr
Before reading Cold Caller, my only exposure to Jason Starr’s work had been his collaboration with Ken Bruen in the form of the black comedy crime caper, The Max. And I enjoyed that one a lot, so I picked up Starr’s debut with pretty high expectations. The New Yorker didn’t disappoint.
Bill Moss works as a phone jockey (or cold caller) at a telemarketing firm in New York. He’s less than happy in his job. What was initially seen as a temporary stint in a position he was overqualified for has lasted for over a year. His hours are unsociable and the work is mind-numbing, even though he’s one of the best telemarketers in the firm. You see, he was once a rising VP in an advertising company, and his current situation is quite a step down. So, all that potential and intelligence that isn’t going into his job has to go somewhere else, right? Yeah. Unfortunately, ol’ Bill puts his idle hands to the devil’s work, and he’s just not cut out for success in that field.
Cold Caller is a dark piece of work. Bill Moss is portrayed as a typical enough fellow in his thirties, and I imagine some of his gripes and frustrations would seem pretty familiar to a lot of readers. So when he makes his descent into depravity in such a progressive and believable fashion, you’re left with the feeling that we’re all just a few bad decisions and a temper-tantrum away from losing ourselves in psychosis.
I enjoyed the straight-forward writing and the everyday scenarios that serve as a backdrop for the shocking mistakes Bill Moss makes. Jason Starr talks about his own career as a telemarketer on his website, and it’s easily seen that a lot of what he saw and felt from that part of his life made its way into Cold Caller. The office politics and work situations just come across as so real. Luckily, he has the skill to present only the interesting and necessary from this world rather than bore the reader with self-indulgent anecdotes. There is just enough reality to make Bill Moss’s actions all the more shocking.
And then there’s the ending. Man, I loved it. I’d go on about it here, but you’d hate me for detracting so much of the book’s impact. I’ll just say that it’s definitely one of the most just conclusions to a character journey that I’ve come across in a long time. Cold Caller is an outstanding example of noir fiction. I’ll look out for more from Jason Starr.