Friday, February 5, 2010

Fade to Blond by Max Phillips


Hard Case Crime shows it can deliver as a book publisher. With novels such as Money Shot, I've become a big fan of the company It's always good to know there are Still a few publishers out there who can deliver the goods.
Fade to Blond is written from the perspective of Ray Corson, a WWII vet and prize fighter. It's the 1950'S in Los Angeles and he's trying to make a living in the building trades. One day a mysterious blond woman comes up to him on a job site wanting to hire Corson to keep a former boyfriend off her back. Needing the cash and smitten with the woman, he takes the job.
But soon he discovers there's more to the job than she let on. Her ex is a small time hoodlum named Halliday who produces adult films and is in fealty to Lenny Scarpa, a major player in the drug trade. Scarpa, in turn, is beholden to Fausto Burri, the mob boss of Santa Monica. Soon Corson discovers all kinds of inconsistencies in the blonde’s (who goes by the name Rebecca Lafontaine) story. But he’s fallen in love with her and becomes ensnarled in a complex of schemes.
Max Phillips has a natural, but not too easy to follow, writing style. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell who's talking if the scene involves multiple characters. But his feel for natural speaking can also work to his advantage, especially if a given character does not speak standard English. And he can turn a sentence. Such as this description of a young woman who lives too fast:

I was always glad to see Joanie, because it meant no one had killed her yet.

And check out how he manages to capture the spirit of the age in one sentence:

I saw a couple more people about as well-known as Neale and Tremaine, and some players who were just half familiar faces, but you couldn't think what they'd done, and some gaudy specimens who must have been choreographers or designers, and some set dressers and grips and a couple guys who might've been artists, the new kind, that try to look like dockworkers.

The ending of the book is quite stunning, although not too surprising. It out-ranks the famous "It was easy” conclusion from another novel.
A good hard boiled book from a company creating crime fiction with an edge

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