I’ve really enjoyed taking part in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet – many thanks Kerrie! For the last letter I’ve chosen Pariah by Dave Zeltserman.
I toyed with the idea of writing about Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but it’s been a long time since I read The Shadow of the Wind, so my memory is a bit rusty about the details and I haven’t started his latest book The Angel’s Game.
I don’t think the only other book I have by a ‘Z’ author, Gem Squash Tokoloshe by Rachel Zadok, qualifies as crime fiction and I don’t have any books with titles beginning with Z. So it was off to the library to see what they had – not a lot! But Pariah by Dave Zeltserman was sitting on the shelf and I borrowed it although the quote on the front cover made me doubt whether any book could live up to such praise:
‘The perfect pitch of reality, history, crime, celebrity, plagiarism, and sheer astounding writing.’ Ken Bruen
Now I’ve read it, in my opinion it doesn’t. I’ve recently joined the Cozy Mystery Challenge and this book just doesn’t qualify for that category – it has everything a ‘cozy’ mystery doesn’t.
As I began it I thought I wasn’t going to like this at all – too much swearing, too much gratuitous violence, too much blood and gore, just too much ‘reality’ (but not reality as I know it). So I put the book down and began another one. But somehow I found myself thinking about Pariah and wondering how it would turn out and I just had to go back and finish it.
It’s a study in evil. The narrator is Kyle Nevin, a killer without a conscience, just released from an eight-year prison sentence, determined to get revenge on Red Mahoney, South Boston’s head mobster, who had set him up with the FBI. But he needs money to track down Red and carry out his plan. He stops at nothing to get what he wants, killing, maiming, robbery, drugs, drink, sex, etc, etc – until it all goes wrong that is.
All though I wanted things to go wrong for him the irony is that it’s through writing a novel that it finally happens. He’s approached by a publisher to fictionalise his crimes:
I want this to be a tough, hard-hitting crime novel, something where there are no winners, only losers, and with the authenticity that you are more than capable of providing. (page 222)
I really enjoyed this part of the book. Dropped in between some of the chapters are Kyle’s notes to the editor, so I knew all along that this was a book he was writing, but it is onlyin the last few chapters that this comes to the fore. Part of the pleasure for me was the contrast between creative fiction writing – there is a character who has an MFA in creative writing who Kyle pays to write the book for him, until the publisher rejects his submission, telling him that it’s unacceptable because it ‘screamed MFA’ (Master of Fine Arts). He wanted writing with ‘raw energy’.
And I loved it when it came to the ‘celebrity’ interiews, the plagiarism charge and the reaction of book reviewers and book bloggers.
The papers had a field day with me, but the bloggers were the worst. Jesus they were unmerciful. During those four days I couldn’t sleep and spent my time reading all that shit written about me on those blogs. (page 267)
This is a tough tale, a dark thriller, written with confidence and fluency. Kyle is an anti-hero, a real pariah and I disliked him intensely. I may not have liked the characters, the language or the content of this story but it certainly has great impact and has lingered in my mind for days.