This is so very obviously a first novel. It is a strange and bizarre novel. It is an interesting novel. It is not, however, a good novel.
For all the fame, the intrigue, the movies, and the way that this novel did in fact help shape the genre, it’s a mess. For a novel that covers only 120 pages, and one that has a lot of precision to it, there’s some really bizarre digressions and absurd plot devices at work. For example, this novel involves circus cats.
So, the novel about a drifter cast in a kind of archetypal 1930s drifter who happens upon a diner 20 miles outside of Los Angeles owned by a Greek immigrant made good (he’s definitely cast a white white white in the movie and renamed Smith instead of Papadakis) and who is married to a young hot ingenue who failed in Hollywood. He takes a job, helps turns the business into a more profitable one, and falls in love with the wife. As happens, they plot to murder the husband. It takes more than one go.
The novel turns here into as twisty as it can get. It goes pretty far down a few avenues, makes some reverses, and really changes things up. Also, this novel is completely amoral. Every body’s bad and so, nobody’s bad. Maybe that’s ok because it could be about relationships in general. And one thing I like is how honest it is about depraved men and how even when someone has committed murder, a dude will be like….no no I am still good and I just won’t tell my next girl about it. Restart!
This is also a novel about false restarts at the American Dream. Go figure.