Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If Your Detective Slept Through Your Case ...

Paul Tremblay shows up as a "debut author" at www.thrillerwriters.org -- but he's a seasoned writer whose determined pursuit of the Story has resulted in a highly satisfying and unusual work of noir, THE LITTLE SLEEP. I'll get to that in a minute. First, here's a quick summary of Tremblay's work:
Paul Tremblay has sold over fifty short stories to markets such as Razor Magazine, CHIZINE, Weird Tales, Last Pentacle of the Sun: Writings in Support of the West Memphis Three, and Horror: The Year's Best 2007. He is the author of the horror fiction collection Compositions for the Young and Old and the hard-boiled/dark fantasy novella City Pier: Above and Below. He served as fiction editor of CHIZINE and as co-editor of Fantasy Magazine, and was also the co-editor (with Sean Wallace) of the Fantasy, Bandersnatch, and Phantom (forthcoming) anthologies. His first novel, The Little Sleep, is forthcoming from Henry Holt (March 2009). Paul is also a juror (and one of the founders) for The Shirley Jackson Awards (www.shirleyjacksonawards.org). For more information on Paul and his works, visit his website at www.paultremblay.net.

Okay, that explains the "how" of Tremblay's coup -- he's been writing steadily and pushing to expland from stories to novella to the full-length detective novel. THE LITTLE SLEEP features Mark Genevich, a South Boston private investigator. He's fully licensed -- but he's got a problem that pushes clients away. He falls asleep -- yes, while they're explaining whether somebody is trying to kill them and why. Thanks to a disastrous car accident that smashed his face and skull, he's got a brain short-circuit that's given him life-long narcolepsy.

So when he wakes from one of his "little sleeps" and finds blackmail photos of the daughter of a prominent Boston politico on his desk, well, it ought to be simple enough to find out who brought them to his office, right? I mean, wouldn't you think it's either the photographed young woman or her dear dad? Those are Mark's guesses.

It's just too bad that in following up, he turns into a target for a murderous crew that's got a lot of advantages over him: like, not falling asleep during business. And the thing is, any tension in Mark's life intensifies his symptoms -- not just the falling asleep, but worse ones that make him everyone's victim.

Tremblay pushes the dark tension effectively, so that when Genevich realizes what he'll have to do to escape torture, death, and incidentally betraying his real client ... well, it's a real nail-biter. Standard detective procedure never looked so impossibly hard as it does for Mark:
Brush myself off and back upstairs to the kitchen. I sit heavily at the table with the newspapers. I want a cigarette but the pack is in my coat and my coat is way over in the other room. My legs are too heavy. My arms and hands are too heavy. If I could only get around without them, conserve energy, throw the extra weight overboard so I could stay afloat. Can't get myself out of the chair. You never get used to the total fatigue that rules your narcoleptic life, and it only gets more difficult to overcome. Practice doesn't make perfect.

Sure, you can compare this to Jonathan Lethem's 'tec with Tourette's syndrome, or to the TV show "Monk." But Tremblay is carving out his own territory, with an unforgettable character.

Just for thinking, though, here's a little mention from Hoppenstand and Browne's classic book THE DETECTIVE DEFECTIVE IN THE PULPS: "... a crime/puzzle is presented -- and solved -- by the detective hero. Variations of the formula usually revolve around the method of investigation, the means and the motive of the criminal, and of course, the personality of the detective. They may be fat; they may be thin; they may be gregarious or withdrawn, hard-boiled or soft-boiled, violent or peace-loving. They might collect butterflies ... or guns. THey may be loved by the police, or wanted by them. In any event, the detectives's eccentricities paraphrase his style, and his style communicates his individuality."

Thanks, Paul Tremblay, for an individual whose style works its way into a heck of a book.


Anonymous said...

So glad you liked the book, Beth!


Beth Kanell said...

Yes, thanks, Paul, I'll be reading this one again and looking forward to your next! And by the way, I you're booked for the Canaan Meetinghouse Series (see previous blog Calendar Alert), on July 23; Kingdom Books hopes to be there too.

Anonymous said...

Great! I very much hope to meet you in Canaan.


Anonymous said...

Great! Looking forward to meeting you, Beth.