Commenting on a recent blog which dealt, in part, with my novel, In a True Light, Michael Elkington mentioned the American paperback, published by Carroll & Graf, which he bought at the “still much missed” Murder One bookshop for $13. As he points out, the ‘selling’ quote at the head of the front cover comes from a review in The Washington Post Book World …
“A gem … a rare example of crime embellished by art, the crime novel as art.”
What the jacket fails to do is identify the reviewer by name. It was Patrick Anderson, – along with Marilyn Stasio and Bill Ott, one of the most positive and consistent supporters of my work in the States. In this instance, Patrick’s review is graced with a generous double column under the heading Bop Noir.
“The story is perfectly serviceable *, but it is the telling that delights. Harvey is an elegant, understated writer who loves jazz and painting. Readers of a certaing age will savor his flashbacks to New York in the 50s, as when the lovers meet at the Five Spot, where Thelonious Monk and Johnn Coltrane are performing: ‘Monk’s foot, his right foot, skewed wide and stomping down, punctuated the broken line as, stationed in the piano’s curve, the bassist, eyes closed, feels for the underlying pulse.’
“Jackson Pollock turns up drunk in a Village bar, looking for a man to fight or a woman to bed. The lovers attend a party at the poet, Frank O’Hara’s apartment, and their host, seeing Jane, ‘broke off his peroration on Orpheus and Eurydice to wrap her in a warm, quick embrace.’ When Sloane reads to someone in a hospital, he chooses early Hemingway, one of the Nick Adams stories. Billie Holiday’s music floats in the background of the novel.
“In one scene, Harvey devotes two pages to Sloane at work in his studio. A sample: ‘Only when he was satisfied he had the right shade did he reach for a fine, sable-tipped brush and, after stepping back to judge the necessary balance with the existing smudge of grey, make the first fresh mark, a curve of violet tapering away, the size and shape ofe of a feather on a magpie’s wing, the shade of skin seen by certain eyes in faiing light.’
So that’s In a True Light through someone else’s eyes. As I suggested in my previous blog, there are things about it I suspect don’t quite work – but the things that do …
If you’re looking for something to read, well, it’s out there, it’s readily available, why not give it a try?
- Sloane, who had an affair with an established American artist, Jane Graham, when he was just 18, returns to New York decades later to track down the child from that relationship – the daughter he never knew he had – a small-time jazz singer with dangerous mob connections.