25 July 2009
Peter Rabe: ANATOMY OF A KILLER
We already talked (read: I already wrote) about my love of 1940s-60s (yes, the dates keep changing) crime fiction. I didn't go into much detail about why I love that era so much (answer: the Americanized roman noir), but I still think I covered the topic well enough at that time not to go into it again, and therefore I'm just going to come out and tell you how much I enjoyed Peter Rabe's Anatomy of a Killer. Donald Westlake once wrote of Rabe something like "He has the best books with the worst titles" (I think Westlake used Kill the Boss Goodbye as an example of just that, and a good one it was). So, right off the bat, I'm going to come out and state that no, Anatomy of a Killer is not an appropriate title for this book at all. "Anatomy" simply connotes too much detail, and detail there isn't. Profile of a Killer, that works, I guess. I hate to give anything away, but Requiem for a Killer isn't a bad title, either (nor, really, does it give too much away, since the killer himself wants to kill off the killer in order to become a retired traveling button salesman, but that'll all make sense if you ever read this). But the title only matters so much, and so much isn't ever very much, particularly not in this case. What Peter Rabe has written here is classic noir: turn down the lights a little bit, put on some Miles Davis (preferably the score to Elevator to the Gallows, or whatever that noir score he wrote/recorded was), maybe chain smoke your whole way through it with a bottle of rye for company (there truly is no better way to read such a book as this, although I don't smoke myself [if that's the case, drink more rye to compensate]). This is the kind of book that makes you want to handle a gun and talk like Bogart in his prime, and as far as I'm concerned there's no higher recommendation for a crime story. Solid A grade, this one.