Friday, March 06, 2009

Forgotten Books: NOTHING BURNS IN HELL -- Philip José Farmer

Philip José Farmer, who passed away recently, is widely known as the author of any number of innovative and ground-breaking SF novels and stories. No need for me to list them here. What's not so well known is that he also wrote a private-eye novel, and this is it. Since it's by Farmer, maybe I don't need to tell you what it's crude, rude, lewd, funny, violent, and decidedly odd.

To begin with, it's set in Farmer's native Peoria. Is there another p.i. novel set there? If there is, I've never read it. Tom Corbie is the detective's name. His wife is Glinna, and she's a wiccan. They live in an apartment where they're plagued by noisy redneck neighbors. One of the extended subplots deals with Corbie's war with these neighbors, but the first case that Corbie's called to deal with has to do with extortion, and that leads to his capture by the lowest of the backwoods low. Later, he's hired to work for one of the wealthiest families in Peoria. And -- you guessed it -- the cases turn out to be related. But it's how they're related that'll get you. Nothing Burns in Hell is one of the most labrynthine tales I've read in many a year. Raymond Chandler's plot in The Big Sleep is simple compared to this one.

Along the way, Farmer gives you details of Peoria's history, talks about native American myths, tosses in seemingly unrelated stories that turn out to be important to the plot, and generally has a great time. I think I can safely say you'll never read another p.i. novel like this one, should you be brave enough to give it a try.

9 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great cover and I wish I had tried this guy before he died. Although I could say that about Shakespeare too.

Gerard Saylor said...

Sound neat. I just reserved a copy from the library.

Bill Crider said...

If you like the weird and off-track stuff, this should suit you fine.

Gerard Saylor said...

Well, I did enjoy the last Lansdale book I read. Does that count?

Bill Crider said...

Joe's a huge fan of Farmer's work and wrote an into to a collection last year. So that should tell you something.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Who's the publisher, Bill?

Bill Crider said...

Tor Books, both hardback and paper. Same cover on both, I think.

Win Scott Eckert said...

Bill, I don't know how the hell I missed your post on this, but thanks for reminding everyone of this forgotten gem. It should be back in print.

Bill Crider said...

We're awaiting the Farmer revival.