Monday, August 06, 2007

Red Sky Lament -- Edward Wright

I've written previously (here and here) about the first two books in Edward Wright's series about John Ray Horn, former cowboy star, ex-con, and sometime private investigator. Red Sky Lament, the third (and maybe last) book in the series, is set during Hollywood's Red Scare in the late '40s. A congressman is investigating the commies, planting stories on the radio about left-leaning stars, and sowing discord as he tries to get people to inform on their friends and name names. When one of the accused reds is murdered, John Ray is asked to find out who gave his name to the commie-hunters. Before it's all over, even Woody Guthrie has shown up to pick and sing and even provide some insight into the murder.

I enjoyed this book but not quite as much as the earlier two. (I'm in the minority on this, by the way. Tell me you're surprised.) I thought it was a bit too long, that the political message (certainly one I'm sympathetic to) was overdone, and that the symbolism of the brush fires burning in the background was a tad heavy-handed. And I have a minor quibble with John Ray Horn's looking at a "photocopy." I don't think there were any of those in the late 1940s. That's just me. For all I know that might have been a common term then. It just seemed odd to encounter in in a book in which the period details seem so well handled.

In spite of my small complaints, I'd recommend not only this book but also the first two in the series. Check 'em out.

7 comments:

Richard Heft said...

Didn't L.J. Washburn get here first? : )

Bill Crider said...

Or Stuart Kaminsky?

Kent said...

I agree with your comments as I enjoyed the first two books in the series more than this one. While it's a standalone set in Tennessee, Orion is publishing a new Wright in September in the UK. You can read the description on amazon.uk.

Bill Crider said...

I wonder why he changed settings. He may have gone as far as he could go with the John Ray Horn books, since this one ended a bit more hopefully than the others.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I'm sure you're right about the photocopy. It was probably a photostat. When I was in the printing trade in the '70s we used PMT's--Photomechanical Transfers. They use (or used) the same thing at the county fair when you'd get photographed in an Old West costume.

Bill Crider said...

I'll bet it was meant to be photostat. Who knows. Maybe the copyeditor changed it.

Juri said...

Philip Marlowe always had a photostat of his license with him. I thought this was a well-known cliché - at least Kevin Burton Smith says at Thrilling Detective that he doesn't want any PI stories with photostats in it!