Raymond Chandler didn't just write about Philip Marlowe--sometimes, he changed it up to write about other guys who handled things in pretty much the same fashion that Marlowe would have, but they had different names. Of course, that's not the sort of cover blurb that sells books, but then again, it's not like anybodies going to use this book as the jumping off point to dive into Chandler. It's a compendium of short stories, each notching up around 50-70 pages of nasty dudes, nasty ladies and guns. Sure, it's not bad. But it's a bit of a slog, and only about half the stories match up to Chandler's best. Still, it's not like it takes a lot of time to read this stuff, and for the time investment involved it's a hell of a lot better than Dean Koontz. What does Dean Koontz write about anyway?
On the other side of the coin, you've got a Dashiell Hammet collection of short stories, and none of them match up to the Maltese Falcon. However, they're all about the same dude, the unnamed "Continental Op" of the title, and he's a delight to follow around. Described as squat, which makes him sound like some kind of frog, the Op just trips around, fucking with people, fucking people up, and generally just making you wish Hammett had written in a day and age where the Op could have said "fucking" a lot. Unlike Maltese, there's no higher literary art being reached in these pages, but these stories kick the hell out of Chandlers in the "kick the hell out of" contest, and they're all drenched with so much greasy cynicism that it's sort of like hanging out with writers for the Economist at a low income public school science show.
Another really uncomfortable study of violence among people who's lives were designed to live without it, courtesy of Ian McEwan. Interestingly enough, this book was made into a film by Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader, featuring Christopher Walken in a role the book clearly describes as a swarthy Italian with the requisite cheeseball necklace. Whether the film also includes the brutal sexual violence described in some of the books later passages is unknown to this writer, although it's probably safe to assume that it doesn't--if the film version is absurdly faithful to the book, it would certainly be a notorious film instead of one that's pretty much unknown. Strangers is a hell of a book, but it's not for everyone--which, in a way, is sort of a spoiler. After all, it starts off, and spends more than half of it's page count, behaving like a book for everyone. But, as the Bard once said, shit gets hectic. And then things get a hell of a lot worse.
According to Wikipedia, which is kind of like saying "more accurate than your parents, not as accurate as reality," Salinger has some kind of weird filing system describing what will and will not be published of his secret filing cabinet of finished books. Hopefully, one of them will be a longer version, like a Tolstoy long version, of the Glass family. As it is, both Roof Beam and Seymour are pretty terrific pieces of that story--on their own, they are over-analyzed New Yorker pieces that sell based on the fantasy of whatever it was Salinger was planning to do with this Tenenbaum like family before his grip on his importance as a writer took a vacation from reality. Yes, they're good. But they're as good as a short piece of fiction published in the New Yorker is--better than most, that's for sure, but pretty slim pieces of work. But here's a little-known fact: the most irritating people you'll ever meet are the people who read and then want to talk about the navel-gazing whitebread bullshit fiction that the New Yorker publishes. Being a good New Yorker short story is sort of like being the best poet at your high school. Sure, you're the tops, but you're the tops at something that makes everybody want to throw you down a flight of stairs. So, J.D. Salinger, if you're googling your own name, because everybody knows that you fucking ARE, because you're FUCKING CRAZY, this reader would enjoy nothing more than to throw you down a flight of stairs.
Introduce that, bitch.
-Tucker Stone, 2008