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Another fine mess

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The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death - Charlie Huston Okay, pal Donny, avert your eyes. I'm sending you my copy tomorrow, or maybe the next day, but I'm also sending you something I think a lot better. But, regardless, I'll expect you to write a really good review of Mr. Huston's latest, making the right and righteous case for his talent, as you have so effectively here. But me?

I'm just not that into him. I think I know from smartass, and as I read through the banter here, I get the sense that every one of the schmoes in this novel would maybe get in a lick or two, but would mostly take a healthy beating, if they hung out with some of the smartasses I know. By this I mean, the characters' wit--perhaps refreshingly--is not razor-sharp or always-on or profanely crushing. Instead, Huston's characters, like the most of us smartasses, say a lot of dumbass things. Resort to cheap puns, sputter ineffectually, snarl out some cursewords with eighth-grade arrogance. They can be funny. They can also be rather painfully annoying.

Again, such relative "incompetence"--the mundane quality of the smartassery--may be a fine monument to Huston's sense of realism, may sidestep the (also painful) perfect-comeback tedium of so many Hollywood crime sagas. But other things make me feel... well, less generous. The details here are often idiosyncratic and precise: his L.A. is the same low-budget-mallfront jigsaw of concrete and cheap commodification I recall from my own years there. But the plotting, aside from a pretty damn fine focus on the protagonist's central gig in crime-scene cleaning, tends toward the familiar thugs-and-smartasses hard-edged caper that we Elmore Leonard fans have long adored. And, a little too often, this felt more Guy Ritchie than Elmore Leonard.

But--still--so many people are so very in love with Huston, I gotta figure it's mostly me. And Donald is the man to sell me--so Donald, you get my copy, and I hope you love the hell out of it, and can come back and preach. Meanwhile, I'll point over to the absolutely batshit-crazy unreality of Josh Bazell's [b:Beat the Reaper|3173125|Beat the Reaper A Novel|Josh Bazell|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61WLVZ7zq7L._SL75_.jpg|3205574]...