Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dope -- Sara Gran

I've already mentioned one thing about this book set in May 1950 that struck me as a false note. Here's another one. At one point the narrator mentions someone's 45 rpm records as if they're quite common. The fact is that RCA didn't introduce 45s until 1949, and it took quite a while for them to catch on. Folks in 1950 didn't latch onto new technology the way they do now. Things like that don't mean the novel's not good. They just mean that I'm jerked out of the story when I read them, but then I'm an old fart. Probably nobody else who reads the book will even notice.

As for the book itself, it's narrated by Josphine (Joe) Flannigan. She's supposedly hired to look for a missing daughter, and one way to look at the book is as a variation on the paperback p.i. novel of the '50s since Joe certainly functions pretty much as a p.i. in the story. But she's not. She's a former hooker and cleaned-up junkie who knows her way around the seamy side of New York. As it turns out, the missing daughter gig isn't what it seemed, so the p.i. aspect of the book is probably canceled out by that, I suppose.

What I liked most about the book is the unsentimental view of all the people in The Life, whores, pimps, thieves, junkies. I also liked the straighforward narrative and the idea of a noir novel being told by a woman instead of a man. If I knew where the story was headed long before Joe, maybe that's because I've read a lot of old Gold Medal books. It's still a good story, well told.


Anonymous said...

Your take on this was very similar to my own. The telling of the story is definitely unsentimental -- a good word for it -- and I appreciated that. I also enjoyed the atmosphere of the story. The plot was good, although a little thin. (And the book overall is very slight. Not that that's necessarily bad.)

What I find strange is how much hype its getting. I liked the book fine, but wonder what I'm missing.

Unknown said...

Same here. It doesn't strike me as being anything extra special.

Anonymous said...

I suspect you've found reviewers who are essentially hb virgins, or think they aren't, and are thus blown away.

Aside from not realizing that 78s would still be the default format for singles in 1950, I wonder if the author is aware of 45rpm albums of the time, offered while RCA and CBS were duking it out in an earlier, less lopsided VHS/Beta contest. I also wonder who was first to introduce the 16rpm mostly-talking book format; my HS library had some Shakespeare plays on one 12" vinyl disk thus.

Unknown said...

I used a 16 rpm recording of some Edgar Allan Poe poems and stories when I taught high school a couple of eons ago.

Tribe said...

Todd, you suspect wrong.