Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Read It or Run Screaming?

I was reading a book review in the New York Times yesterday. The more I read, the more I wondered, do I want to read this or do I want to run screaming away from any and all bookstores? Janet Maslin reviews Charlie Huston’s latest book called The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.

I’ve not read anything of Huston’s. Apparently, he writes Pulp Noir and Stephen King adores his writing. Maslin calls his new venture into crime novels, “Smoking-hot.” And I have to admit, she makes the book sound enticing, in a weird, off the wall, sort of way. Here’s how she describes the three-sentence opening paragraph of The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death:
The first sentence sounds tough: “I fingered my knife and thought about sticking it in his ear.” The second introduces a note of reason: “But it was plastic and would probably break before it went deep enough to hit his brain.” And the third trumps the threat of violence with a bon mot about a witless adversary: “And beside, even if I jammed it in there, I was uncertain it would do any real damage.”
Okay, now that’s good. But keep reading the article. Here’s a couple of descriptive phrases from the article:
graphic nipple-piercing

With its fine points about how to remove brain residue from walls and rugs and a plot point about suicide by suppository-bomb on a waterbed
But she also says things like:
scorchingly good dialogue and banner-worthy chapter headings

delivers a book that anyone can admire

tart, quick-witted, sharply funny trip, hijacked only by certain conventional plot touches and brushes with sentimentality
Don’t know if I’ll buy the book, but I’ll definitely look at it the next time I’m at a bookstore.


  1. This sounds great. Adding it to my list of to-reads. Thanks for the heads-up.

  2. Let me know what you think.

    My first thought was nah, it sounds really weird. Then, I thought, weird can be good. One of my favorite books is Geek Love.

  3. My first instinct was run screaming. But, like you, I know I'll have to look for it next time I'm in a bookstore. Whether or not I purchase it, probably depends on my mood that particular day.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Author of The Ride

  4. Sounds like the kind of writing King would admire. I'm a King disciple when it comes to writing style and editing principles, but not so much a fan of his genre. Bit gory for me. But it sounds like for its genre this book is quite the well written shocker.

  5. I keep a Look For list on my Palm. I need to put this one on the list or I'll forget the title. The next time I'm in the store, I'll check it out. In a weird way, I'm enticed by it.

    Marvin, I know you liked On Writing by King. I did too. I remember reading it on a plane and laughing out loud.

  6. Barry Eisler just posted a review of this book on his MySpace bulletin board. Highly complimentary, altho he admits Huston is not for everyone. One quote from Barry: "the milieus he (Huston) creates give you that dizzying feeling of having fallen down a rabbit hole into some slightly off-kilter version of the reality you previously took for granted-"
    Visit Barry's MySpace for more.

    Gayle Carline

  7. Gayle, Sounds like a review similar to this one. There must be something about it that will make people want to read it, despite the warnings.

  8. Not for me, although I do like to watch gory movies. (Sometimes I have to turn away)

    Morgan Mandel

  9. You're braver than I am, Morgan. I avoid horror or scary movies. Eekk!

  10. I'll probably pass on it. Stories that open with sanctioned violence usually offer much more of the same. I have so little and so many books to choose from.

  11. Charlie Huston is an amazing writer. I've read everything he's written and he just gets better all the time. He's pure noir, all the way.

    I highly recommend him!

  12. Thanks for the recommendation. I am convinced that I want to look for this book.


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