Monday, November 22, 2004

Fade to Blonde

I've spent the past few days writing, going through a copy-edited manuscript, doing some work around the house, and watching it rain. There was one bright spot among all that semi-gloom, however: I read Max Phillips's novel FADE TO BLONDE, published by Hard Case Crime.

A lot of people I know I have already read and raved about this book, and I asked myself, Can it really be that good? The answer is an emphatic yes. It really is that good.

Writing about a past era isn't all that hard. It takes some research to do it right, but it can be done. Writing in the voice of a past era is a much greater challenge, it seems to me. Simply living in the present puts a filter over our eyes and in our brains that makes it difficult not to relate the past to what's going on now. Something that's off-kilter nearly always creeps in. Sometimes it's just an anachronism, sometimes it's a bit of heavy-handed symbolism that's the author's way of saying, "This book isn't really about the past, it's about what's going on in the world now." Somehow Phillips avoids this trap and writes a book set in the Fifties that could have been written in the Fifties. I didn't see a single missed step in the plot or hear a wrong note in the writing. It's been said that FADE TO BLONDE could have been a Gold Medal novel. It certainly could have. It's easily one of the best books I've read this year.

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