Saturday, June 29, 2013

Crashed by Timothy Hallinan

I listened to this on tape, and about three days after I initially downloaded it from the library, I saw a positive review for the book on NPR and felt unreasonably proud of myself for downloading a decently reviewed book purely because the cover is well-designed.

The review said that it was the tone that makes this book - and I think that's very true.  When you tell someone what the story is about, it doesn't sound like anything spectacular. It's about the underworld of the Hollywood area, a drugged-out child star, a burglar, and a porn film.  How is that new or different, right?  And when you tell them that it's funny sometimes, it's even more misleading. Because it isn't a funny book overall; people die, and it's serious and scary. Yet the characters can find humor in life - they aren't perpetually serious - and that makes them seem like human beings.  Nothing is more boring to me than the stoic, inscrutable, Bond-style detective.

So, basically, it's a hard book to describe to people.

I can say that this is the only modern mystery story I've read that I really enjoyed.  Not only because the main character was fun and all that - but because it was at least a bit believable, and seemed to be about bigger things than just giving the reader a fun ride.  I was struck by the unmistakable social commentary.  And how the characters - all of them (with the possible exception of Junior's wife - she's believable and everything, but not meaty) - would be an actor's dream. And since Lionsgate has bought the rights to make a movie, there's a slim chance that it might pull through development purgatory and get made. Of course, the story and the characters and the social commentary could all get sapped out of them by dumb people, but with a smart screenwriter and a handful of great actors it could be something really, really special.  And I don't think that often.

Thistle Downing, in particular, would be a dream of an acting role. If somebody played the part well, I'd see them grabbing awards.  Thistle is drugged-out, obviously, but she's also so self-aware, and sees precisely what the media machine is after. She has a sense of humor.  She has weird ideas about what happened to her talent. She's not your normal messed up hollywood kid character - and I think that's cool because there is no such thing as a normal messed-up hollywood kid.

People in real life are not just types - they're all different, no matter what group they fit into - and that, right there, is why this book is good: because Timothy Hallinan knows it, and writes his people like people.

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