After several false starts, I was finally able to finish a Jason Starr novel. The results are about what I expected.
Jim Thompson, whom Starr is no doubt cribbing from here, is one of my favorite writers. He writes psychological thrillers in which characters are forced into difficult circumstances that are largely beyond their control and all of their choices are bad. No one is better at identifying the dark heart of chaos beneath what we as humans pass for order.
Starr is no Thompson but this is a fair enough imitation. I felt nervous and physically uncomfortable reading this at times as Starr winds David Miller through one urban nightmare adventure to another in Manhattan. All the while, there is a sense that something is off kilter with all of these characters, especially David, but you’re never really quite sure of what until the end.
Still, there’s a reason why Thompson is Thompson, often imitated, never duplicated. Thompson was good at displaying the sadistic evils of his world in an artistic way. His books verge on horror in that regard. Whereas Starr wallows in them in a way that creates some distance for the reader, which makes the violence and rampant misogyny more difficult to take. You’re never quite sure how you should feel about David and the ending, which raises more questions than answers, challenges what you thought you knew the whole time. But it felt contrived, as if Starr was saying Ha, jokes on you, reader! Look how clever I am!
Nevertheless, Starr is a talented writer. I don’t know how much more of his work I’ll peruse but this likely won’t be my last.