Tuesday 4 August 2009

A Wee Review - Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

I’ve read Walking the Perfect Square by Reed Farrel Coleman and a number of novels by Ken Bruen this year. When I heard that these two accomplished writers were collaborating on a novel I was excited. But to be honest, I was a little dubious too. Their styles are so completely different that I couldn’t visualise a way to package them together in a neat little novel that would do both writers the justice they deserve. No doubt I wasn’t the only person to hold this opinion, and I’m sure others with louder voices than mine were quick to voice it. But I have to say, I’m glad Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman decided not to listen to anybody but each other (and at a later date Allan Guthrie as editor) on this one.

TOWER is a collaboration novel in a much different mould than the trilogy Ken Bruen wrote with Jason Starr, now available from Hard Case Crime. With the HCC novels, the style is constant and you’d be hard pressed to figure out which writer delivered which line. And that’s cool, because in my opinion, that works. BUT the approach Ken Bruen took with Reed Farrel Coleman, though different, also works. You could almost say it’s two novellas that retell the same story in two different POVs, but that doesn’t do any justice to the efforts of either writer here. This short, sharp heartbreaker was years in the making, and it shows.

TOWER tells the tale of Nick and Todd, two childhood buddies from the tough streets of Brooklyn whose forays into crime drive a wedge between them. In their adulthood, they each take a different path that crosses over until they eventually meet one last time for an explosive conclusion to their journeys. And along the way, that word that raises the bile and strikes fear into the New York criminal underbelly – rat – throws everything they’ve ever known or thought about each other into disarray.

Nick’s perspective is written by Bruen and Todd’s by Farrel Coleman. There is a distinction in voice and style, but the writers make this work as a distinction in the characters’ inner dialogues and all-round make-up. The genius in this collaboration lies in the things that each writer hasn’t implicitly said, but that the reader is more than able to glean from the subtext and by cross-referencing the thoughts of the two protagonists. I’m lucky to have read this one ahead of its release date.

If you want a flat, plot-driven piece of s—s—summer reading, then this isn’t the book for you. And in any case, it’s not released by Busted Flush Press until September. However, if you want a read that’ll make you feel like you’ve had your heart scooped out (in a good way, like); you better get your hands on TOWER.


seana graham said...

Heart scooped out in a good way. Hmm.

The book sounds like a very intriguing experiment, though. I'll look for it. I just had a customer come in the other day and ask specifically for those Busted Flush reprints of Coleman's earlier work, so they must be doing something right with their marketing. Let's hope so.

Gerard Brennan said...

Seana - I bet David Thompson would be very pleased to read that. Hope you enjoy TOWER as much as I did.