Wednesday 21 January 2009
A Wee Review - The Max by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr - Tag Team Style
Mike Stone. Thanks for passing along the copy of The Max Ken Bruen signed for me. He’s a real gent, isn’t he?
Gerard Brennan. Yeah, Mister Bruen’s a legend.
MS. I, um, noticed a crease or two on the spine. Like it had been read before it reached me…
GB. Um... ach, I can’t lie. It was me. Sorry, I couldn’t help it. The cover art seduced me.
MS. That’s understandable. I love the covers to the Hard Case Crime books too; they’re just so evocative of a bygone era. Pulp became unfashionable for a while, a word synonymous with below-par quality, so kudos to Hard Case for turning that on its head and producing these gorgeous quality paperbacks. But the words, man, what did you think of the words?
GB. Aye, right. The words are the important thing, aren’t they? Well, I’ll tell you this. A couple of weeks before I started up CSNI, I read Priest by Ken Bruen. I was knocked out, man. Such poetry in prose. I lost hours of sleep trying to cram more of it into my skull. Now, The Max is a little different in form, and I reckon that’s down to Jason Starr’s influence. But it’s not a bad influence at all. There’s a lot of recognisably Bruen stuff in there, so a fan won’t be disappointed, but whatever Starr brings to the mix really contributes rather that retracts. Seems to me like it’s a match made in crime fiction heaven. And now I’ve added Starr’s Cold Caller to the reading pile. You?
MS. Well, on the strength of The Max I’m putting the first two books by Bruen and Starr, Bust and Slide, on my shopping list. Nuff said.
GB. Yeah, they’re Brennan must-haves now as well. One of the greatest strengths of the book was the barmy cast. I mean, from Max to Angela to Sebastian, such a troop of ne’er-do-wells have rarely been crammed into such a slim tome. It’d be hard to choose, but did any emerge as a favourite for you?
MS. Ne’er-do-wells… Now there’s an understatement! Was there anybody who wasn’t completely amoral, delusional or just plain psychotic in this book? My favourite character, Max Fisher, the self-styled The M.A.X., epitomised all three. I laughed my head off several times at his antics. Such as when he is locked up in Attica with a huge black guy named Rufus who promises to have his white ass by nightfall. Max spends the first chapters imagining the horrors awaiting him but getting off on the attention. He’s so delusional, he’s priceless. Watching him rise through the prison hierarchy by a series of misunderstandings was a joy. And his treatment of the female author charged with writing his life story was pure gold.
GB. I know what you mean about The M.A.X. His ex-wife Angela, though. Man, she was one knockout über-femme fatale. Those Greek islands just didn’t know what hit them. And that electricity/poison between her and shady Lee Child lookalike, Sebastian, tickled and then saddened me. I had a place in my heart for that crazy lady. She’d have scared the bejesus out of me, but if I’d met somebody like Angela before hooking up with my lovely wife, who knows what I’d be up to now? Probably rotting in a Mexican jail, actually. You know, I heard it on the grapevine that The Max is being studied in NYU as an example of post-modern angst. Why couldn’t we have studied books like this at school?
MS. They’re warping young minds with Hard Case Crime? Heh, what the hell is post-modern angst when its at home, anyway? Well, I hope the teachers don’t take it too seriously, because it’s a book the word ‘rollicking’ was invented for. Crude, bonkers, lusty, and black as treacle. I loved it. It gets five stars from me.
GB. And in the spirit of Irish hyperbole, I’ll give it a galaxy.