Back in the day, I’m talking the 20s-50s, writers used to make their bread by writing pulp tales on the side while working on their main works. They would release the former under pseudonyms. Hard boiled mysteries, campy science fiction, erotica, plenty of great writers plied their trade this way. Lawrence Block wrote dozens of trashy erotic novels under a variety of names before transitioning to mainstream mystery fare.
The Serialist is a tribute to that form of writing and for that, I almost love the book. These days, writers still may do that kind of writing for pennies off Kindle but it’s mostly a lost art. David Gordon honors this and I’m grateful.
Unfortunately, that’s the only thing this book has going for it. I really wanted to like to more than I did but its lead character is obnoxious and the supporting cast, majority women, are written pretty thin. It doesn’t help that the premise is something designed to frustrate me: a serial killer (ugh) who preys on models (gah) and comes from the foster care system (ugh) tries to get the writer to write about him. He’s aided by a stripper (c’mon) whose sister was one of the killer’s victims (ick) and a 16-year old girl whom he tutors (yikes). Unfortunately, there is a copycat killer (sigh) who may be the real killer and thus the writer has to find this out. On top of everything, Gordon’s prose is sorely lacking. This book is desperately overwritten, with the vast majority of it taking place inside the uninspiring protagonist’s head.
It might not be the book’s fault that I didn’t like it but I still feel like the humor/satire stuff felt flat. Others wrote that this was a commentary on the NYC populace at the moment (2009) but if so, I missed out on it. The only thing that carried me to the end was the premise, which I found compelling in spite of the execution. But man, this one just ain’t good. I tried to find ways to get it to 3 stars and I just couldn’t.