Dead is Good by Jo Perry – review

Derek
September 3, 2017

Dead is Good

Jo Perry

Fahrenheit Press

9/July/2017

In most fiction, the death of the protagonist would be the end of the story, but in Jo Perry’s Charlie & Rose series (previously ‘Dead is Better’ & ‘Dead is Best’) it’s the starting point for a series of books which use our dead and at times impotent everyman and his sole companion – a deeply affecting red setter, the victim (in life) or torture and starvation, and who now acts as a sounding board and a moral compass for Charlie who still, at times, faces situations where there are no good solutions and all is shades of grey.

 

And in this respect, this particular book excels: Where most people writing crime fiction with a ghost and a dog would likely slide towards the cosy, Perry does almost exactly the opposite. Charlie, in each successive book, is becoming both more self-aware, and more aware of the inequities and evils of the world. And yet he’s dead, can communicate only with Rose and – briefly – with any other whose passing over he witnesses, and is forced, therefore, to remain, as in life, and despite the fact that he now aches to actually act, as a bystander, watching the unfolding events and trying, in some way, to impact them.

 

Which could make for very dull reading in lesser hands. But Perry’s are not lesser hands. Having written both for TV and Poetry, what we have here is a book which feels like a meditation on mortality, on – as two characters are named – Hope and Grace, and on Love. In fact the first two mysteries here – why does an idealistic lawyer arrange her own execution by the LAPD and who is now out to silence her artist sister – become, whilst entertaining and challenging, secondary to the main mystery within the book: Can Love survive Death?

 

And the Television writing results in a book which has echoes of David Simons’ ‘The Wire,’ if it was set in LA and looked at undocumented immigrants, sweatshop workers, drug couriers, and the chain that goes up to Angelean businessmen with million dollar mansions, kids who get tens of thousands of dollars spent on birthday parties, and wives who remain – one senses, deliberately – ignorant of the source of the family wealth.

 

It’s this – this cinematic view of the landscape – that transports this and the other Charlie & Rose books above the norm and makes them – for me – genuinely emotional. One scene in particular, when the spirits of the dead – unseen by the living – descend on Father Serra Park on the Dia de Los Muertos – was so affecting that it had me in tears.

 

This isn’t for everyone. And that’s fine: who wants a world where there’s only one sort of book? But it is definitely for anyone who wants a book that moves you, asks you to consider difficult questions and is unafraid to admit that in life – as in death – sometimes things aren’t neat, the ends aren’t all nicely tied up; but the essence – the spirit of good people trying to do good – never dies.

 

Highly recommended.

Songs From The Marq

Derek
December 19, 2015

Death of a Diva is available now. To buy it, click here.

You can also send it as a personalised Gift E-Book here.

I write in noise. My mother used to tell anyone who cared to listen that, as a child, I was incapable of enduring silence, and that – with the arrival of the domestic stereophonic headphone in the seventies and the personal Walkman in the eighties – I was able only to read, write and think, whilst I had the counterpoint of TV, records, another book, or a selection of pickles on a plate.

And I still need counterpoint today. Here is how I write: I watch, I listen, I think “What if,” or “I wish I’d said… ” followed, immediately, by “Jesus, what would have happened if I’d said…” Because I don’t write. I tell stories. And when I sit down in silence and wait for stories, nothing happens.

When I was a kid, my family had music that went from “My Fair Lady” via “Elvis Gold,” “Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake,” numerous Andy Williams records, and vinyl by Dinah Washington Francoise Hardy Nancy Sinatra, Diana Ross and her Motown cohorts and on into ABBA, The Human League and many of the best 80’s recording artistes.

Our family soundtrack was melodic, lyrical, and tuneful. And it told stories.

And I write – I tell – stories with music ever present.

Continue reading Songs From The Marq

The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes: A Sweaty Floridian Ibsen. WIth Anal.

Derek
October 3, 2015

image

Lawrence Block has been writing since God was in his heaven and Kennedy in the White House.

That he’s had an esteemed career goes without saying. He’s written slight pulpy books (After the First Death), Bigger City-wide Blockbusters (the counterintuitively named Small Town, movie scripts (Wong Kar Wai’s Blueberry Nights), and reams of commentary on, instruction for and inspirational words to writers (his Telling Lies For Fun and Profit has been a constant in my life for many years).

And he’s been incredibly flexible. In his Seventies, Block, seeing the changes in the publishing landscape, and recognising that the relationship between publishers, authors and readers was being redefined, began to self publish, to digitally publish, and to actively use his website, eNewsletters, EBay and direct sales to get his books – at prices which allowed him to make some coin on the transactions – into the hands of people who wanted to have them.

Considering he’s just three years off his 80th birthday, this might seem an odd development for an elder statesman, who might be expected to have grown used to sitting on his laurels while the publishers and their marketing department sold the books.

But Lawrence Block – like the late Jackie Collins – comes from a different place. A place which is funky and dimly lit, and very often looked down on by publishing and critics, dismissed as lesser, cheaper, dirtier. A place where Give ‘em what they want, and Get paid first are not dirty words.

Continue reading The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes: A Sweaty Floridian Ibsen. WIth Anal.

A Slow Death Reviewed

Derek
September 18, 2015

image

I have an admission to make: I love melancholy: that sense of ennui at the human condition, a despair at the inevitable entropy and ending of everything, and – bubbling just under it – the anger at man’s impotence in the face of a world that just won’t be set right.

Which is probably why I love Noir Crime, and definitely why I adored Max Drescher and “A Slow Death.” There are enough reviewers here giving out hints on the plot; suffice to say that it has more plot twists than the average mystery. Almost every time I thought I’d figured out where we were going, James Craig threw a curveball, and we were off on a direction I hadn’t foreseen. If Amazon gave out “Jaw Dropper” scores, this would be a “Four Jaws on the Floor” book.

Continue reading A Slow Death Reviewed