SO, I managed to get involved with Penguin and their little initiative to give bloggers books to read and review. While normally I might consider this too close to ad’s to do, the shameless book hussy in my cannot give up the chance to have a reason, nay, a demand to read something.
Yeah, it’s all kinda of awesome. And yes, I’m a complete dork.
So the first book they sent me was Loser’s Town by Daniel Depp. (Yes, it’s HIS brother. Or half brother. Or something) I flip through, read the collateral that comes with it. Notice it’s a noirish tale. I don’t really like noir. It’s too pat for me, full of rain and slappy shoes and bloody teeth. I can barely watch a movie in this style-it’s gotta be really good. But, once given a book, I will plow through it eventually, and then I have to finish it, unless it’s Jonathon Strange and Mr Norell in which case I cannot get through the bloody thing. I’ve tried ten times and it’s just like a big piece of meat stuck in my craw. It won’t move, and it tastes worse every time I go back to it.
Loser’s Town isn’t a bad read. The writing, basically, is good. But I can tell he’s a screenwriter-he’s got those eyes on, and I can see it to, the set up. The plot is basically bad guys trying to get famous guy to do what they want. The book is set in LA, in “show-biz” and it’s seedy underbelly. Or it wants to be seedy, but it really just comes off like the Hardy Boys version. Very overdone, very unsurprising, for the most part.
However, there are moments where it suddenly becomes really complete, where two characters meet and are suddenly fleshed out most unexpectedly. One thug, Potts, becomes enamoured of a woman, Ingrid in a store. She returns the favour, and begins to flesh him into a real person. But it’s pointless because it goes no where, and serves to purpose aside from being an irritant, and a distraction from the plot. It’s almost like there was another thread the author wanted to stick on, but then didn’t. I was disappointed at this part, because I could see building an entire character study off the two characters and how he wrote them. They seemed so effortless, even as they made no sense. It was the only part of the book that caught me off guard and made me stop to look again.
The main character, Spandeau, is meaty and manly and all those good things, but becomes very one sided by the end of the book. I didn’t really enjoy him, or find him as fleshed out as he could have been. While he had the majority of the “air time” I didn’t feel like I knew him. Perhaps that was the point, but it bothered me.
While I was trying to rush the ending since I was finishing the book walking home from the bus. (Yes, that crazy lady reading in the road IS me), I was bothered by how swiftly everything in the book tied up-there could have easily been another 50 pages or so. It felt sped up, and pat, and far too easy to see coming. I don’t expect a bloody rabbit each time I read something, but a little diversion from the point in nice.
The writing isn’t bad. There are some really fabulous moments in the book. Depp can write a character, sometimes. It’s almost like he has this idea of a character who is more than the character CAN be. I found myself saying “but WHY?” to the book a lot, especially when it came to anything about Spandeau’s failed (or limp) marriage. It didn’t make sense that the character would marry at all, or then cling to the ex and her family after breaking up. Or the inexplicable scary German dad stories to explain why Spandeau was so “bad” or heartless or something. As someone once told me, you write to put someone IN a place, not to describe it to them.
It was an enjoyable read-perfect for the plane or the commute, which is when I read it. It wasn’t a bad book-it was just really uneven and almost uncomfortable in some places, feeling unfinished, hurried and not properly thought out. This is Depp’s first novel-I can’t wait to read his next to see how far along he can come, to bring me more of those little diamonds in the rough.