When I’m not at work on school stuff, I’ve been tearing through the novels of Andrew Klavan. Just in the past week and a half I’ve already read three of his books – and counting. And I’m a slow reader.
I got started with Dynamite Road, which continues with the same characters in Shotgun Alley. I got hooked because they are just the kind of novels I like – neo-noir thrillers where the good guys are emotionally damaged knights from the Raymond Chandler tradition and the rest of the world is hard and brutal seems cut out of a Jim Thompson novel. Where noble people are few, hookers have hearts of gold, and the rest of the world will do anything for money or women, and not necessarily in that order.
Dynamite Road features private investigators Weiss and Bishop. Weiss is the sad-sack bulky ex-cop with sad eyes and a deeply lined face, like Philip Baker Hall with an extra hundred pounds or so of muscle. He has an amazing ability to see into the criminal mind but it leaves him cynical and removed from the world, only able to protect people from a distance. His partner, Bishop, is the smooth ex-military ex-criminal badass who does the dirty work, mostly undercover. In Dynamite Road the two investigate criminal doings at a rural airport which blossoms into a hunt for a serial killer and a prison break-out. In Shotgun Alley, Bishop joins an outlaw motorcycle gang to rescue the wayward daughter of a Senator, only to discover the gang is responsible for several violent killings.
I then launched into Klavan’s Hunting Down Amanda, which begins with a jazz musician who pursues a hooker after a passionate one-night stand reminds him of his dead wife and somehow the novel turns into a noirish retelling of Stephen King’s Firestarter. Just when you think the book is going the stereotypical route, Klavan turns the narrative down a completely unexpected road. It’s a great ride, with memorable characters and excellent storytelling which kept me completely hooked.
Klavan’s novels are sharp and complex and involving. What might seem like cheap knock-off thrillers – plane-ride books, as my dad used to say – gets elevated into something more. After some digging, I found that two of Klavan’s other novels, True Crime and Don’t Say A Word, have been turned in to movies. It doesn’t surprise me – his cinematic style seems perfect for film.