Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Dreams

“I want to believe that what underlies all of this is something more intangible than The Human Manifesto: that the ideas within it are merely a psychotic’s way of explaining away the divisions that we seem addicted to.  But then it occurs to me that the book many claim as the first novel, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Years, was written in the aftermath of a disease that swept the whole of Europe, and could have been blamed on the way we live together, cheek by jowl; and that our major forms of entertainment, film and television, both burst into true flower immediately after world wars.  I begin to wonderif fictional landscapes and aspirational schemes became important as soon as we started to live together in towns and cities, and if this explains the birth of organized religions at about the same time.  The more crowded our way of living, the more interdependent we are, and the more important our dreams have become — almost as if all of this is there to bond us together, to help us aspire to something missing, and so to edge us toward a humanity that is more than merely being human. … The closer we’re brought together, the more we seem to understand what we are.”

–Ward Hopkins
(Michael Marshall, The Straw Men)

January 10, 2007 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment

Brains

“Bobby realized he had never even scratched the surface of what was possible — that the wars and murders reported in the news were barely more than sports news updates, death for show, a screwed-up system of physcial honor that varied only in scale and public accountability; that even the terrorists he’d interviewed had been dabbling in the shallow end of darkness.  They at least wanted people to know what they had done.  They weren’t just doing it for themselves.  Bobby realized this made a difference, and also that if we were all the same species, there was little hope for us, that nothing we ever did in the daytime would bleach out what some of us were capable of at night.  Some aspects of human behavior were inevitable, but this was surely not.  To believe so was to accept that we had no downward limit.  Just because we were capable of art didn’t mean what lay in front of him could be dismissed as aberration, that we could take what we admired and fence that off as human, dismissing the rest as monstrous.  The same hands committed both.  Brains didn’t undermine the savagery.  They made us better at it.”

–Michael Marshall, The Straw Men

January 10, 2007 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment

A Dangerous Man

DangerousA Dangerous Man by Charlie Huston

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This book, the third in the Hank Thompson trilogy, brings the entire, brutal story to rest.  What started out as a error in judgment (agreeing to catsit a neighbor’s pet) led to a string of murders, a life on the lam, and an eventual job with the Russian mafia.  Now, in the final volume, Charlie Huston brings Hank full circle, and tries to make him a sympathetic character all over again.

It isn’t an easy thing to do.  What drove Hank in the previous two books was a desperation to survive, and a desire to protect his parents.  Now, all that’s left for him is to protect his parents.  He’s a hit man, the muscle, the guy that you don’t want to show up at your door to collect on a debt.  Think Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction and you might have an idea of what he’s like.  But only a little.

See, Hank’s been having a hard time dealing with his new life, and he’s developed a dependency to painkillers.  He’s becoming more and more lackadaisical in his approach to his assignments, and now he’s having to prove himself with one last job.  If he’s successful, then he can rest knowing that his parents will be safe.  If he messes up … well, he’s working for the Russian mafia.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the outcome would be bad.

Charlie Huston writes some gritty, disturbing fiction.  It’s about as coarse as it gets, and makes standard noir fiction look like Mary Poppins.  This is some dark, heavy, serious fiction, and it’s not for the queasy.  A Dangerous Man isn’t quite as brutal as the book’s predecessors (Caught Stealing and Six Bad Things), but it follows in the same vein, and depicts some very graphic scenes.  Huston doesn’t flinch when he portrays the world of a mafia hit man, even if he is as low and depressed as Hank Thompson.

The story is compelling and interesting, even if it is dark.  Huston has a knack for dialogue and pacing, and doesn’t hold back when he’s writing the action scenes.  The story never seems forced, and even when Hank isn’t the most sympathetic of characters, Huston still manages to make him likeable.  Sort of.  It’s a fine balance, and I think he does it well.

If you like your crime fiction hard, dark, and nasty, then it wouldn’t hurt you to check out the Hank Thompson trilogy.  Just don’t start here, or else it will spoil the set up for the other two books.  This book ends the story with the most logical conclusion, but you’ll probably still be surprised with how the author pulls it all together.

January 10, 2007 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment