Friday, April 16, 2010

Come And Get Some Noir! I Mean Philip, of course...

Noir, A Novel
Robert Coover
Overlook Duckworth, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
$24.95 (US)

Had you going there for a second, didn't I? Well, when you read this book about Philip Noir, you really are going to get a hefty dose of literary type noir in the process. Let's take a closer look.

Philip Noir is a private investigator. Using the word 'sleaze' to describe him is the understatement of the millenium, but he's a hell of a compelling character. He smokes, he drinks, he spends an inordinate amount of time in the city morgue, he hangs with the lowest of the low, he sleeps on his office sofa or in rain-soaked gutters, he is a proud, and self-proclaimed, lecher, and an incredibly intuitive and competent investigator.

Out of nowhere, a mysterious woman, her face hidden behind a black veil, pays him a visit and hires him to investigate the death of her husband. She informs him his death was ruled a suicide, but she believes he was murdered, and that her life is also in danger. She provides him with a name on a piece of paper, a generous retainer and disappears into the night. He doesn't know her name, where she lives, or even her deceased husband's name, but is seduced by the dark and sinister feel of it all and takes it on. She meets with him in odd places at odd times--nothing pre-arranged--and continues to provide bizarre pieces of information about herself and her family, which only serves to confuse Noir further and propel him into more dangerous, and life-threatening situations. The lady ends up being murdered, and her body disappears. Then, the bodies of his friends and acquaintances start piling up--including the morgue attendant, all killed, of course, with his gun. Now, the cops are after him, he's not sure who can be trusted, and where the hell is the lady's corpse? He can't turn himself in and explain because what is there to explain? He doesn't know the lady's name, there's no body in the morgue, no record of her having been there in the first place, no witnesses to back up his claims of beatings he's received... His waking up with a headache in various gutters in the city is not exactly a novel occurrence. So, what is going on and where does he go from there? Guess what? I'll never tell! Go read the book!

Not trying to be mean here. Seriously, go read the book. It is SO amazing. One thing I do need to point out here though. When I first began to read this one, I got through maybe a chapter and a half and I put it down. I actually put it down for a couple of days because it put me off--annoyed me, really. Now, that was not because of the story or the quality of the writing or anything. It was because of the POV. This book is written entirely in second person POV, and if you aren't used to that, it can put you off, initially anyway. But the story begins in such a compelling way and draws you in from the start, so give it a chance. I picked it up again a couple of days later and sat down and read the whole thing in a little over a day. I couldn't put it down and didn't want to that time. You have to give it a shot.

Second person seems hard to follow at first, but you'll notice as you get further into it, that it doesn't stand out anymore and you don't focus on it. You end up feeling like the character has grabbed you by the hand and is leading you through the story and allowing you to see and experience everything he is the second he sees and experiences it. It's hard to explain, but take my word for it. If at first it puts you off, put it down for awhile, then go back and pick it up again and keep reading. You'll be so glad you did.

From the author himself, Robert Coover, in an interview about Noir: "The second person resonates with such familiar film noir techniques as the subjective camera, voice-over monologues, cities that speak to you, the mirrored double ('you talkin' to me?'), and it helps make the reader complicit in Noir's quest."

You sure got that right, Mr. Coover, it does indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment