The Magazine for Crime & Mystery



Val McDermid Interview

Nevada Barr on writing HUNTING SEASON plus an excerpt

Paul Doherty's short story THE KYRIE MAN

Stark Contrasts Michael Carlson examines the pulp fiction of Richard Stark

Have you got what it takes to be a Writer? by Fiona Shoop

It Could Only Happen in Hollywood

The Dark Fields
Alan Glynn
Little Brown, £11.00

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Reviewed by Mike Jecks

This is a writer to watch for.
The Dark Fields isn't a crime novel in the classical form, it's much more of a thriller, but wow, what a description of the collapse of a character!
The book starts with Eddie Spinola bumping into his ex-brother-in-law. One of the good things about divorce, Eddie reckons, is the fact that he hasn't had to meet with Vernon Gant since he split with Melissa, his wife.
Gant was a nasty sort of fellow, a drug dealer who was content to supply anyone who had money. He doesn't appear to have changed much in the last few years. Spinola is painfully aware how pathetic he must appear. He hasn't moved on or up in the last ten years. He's a copywriter for a small publisher, and he can't even finish off his jobs there.
For some reason, he blurts this out to Gant over a drink, and Gant suggests some help. He gives Eddie a drug, but not something from the streets: this one's a wonder-pill that makes the brain fizz. It makes people incredibly efficient, they can read information, absorb facts and project forwards. Anyone in business will achieve fantastic success, no matter what the job. It's Viagra for the brain. The only trouble is, Eddie learns that there are some ominous side effects. Blackouts, sudden loss of motor function, headaches. And things get worse, much worse.
There are shades of various books in this. I got the feel that the writer must have read HG Wells's The Invisible Man, and taken on board the concept nothing brilliant comes for free. I have to admit, though, that although I admire Wells's imagination and stories, The Dark Fields was infinitely more gripping.
Yes, it is a first novel, and yes, the very earliest pages show that. There's a slight feeling of lightness of characterisation, a vagueness in the initial fifteen or so pages, but whip through them, and suddenly you're into familiar thriller territory, but with a spin. This is about drugs, but other things too. It takes the reader through the machinations of big money men in New York, the seamier side of drug dealing, the deeply unpleasant business of loan sharking, and of course there are several murders. All set against a backdrop of lunacy at the White House.
However as I said before, the main thing here is the impact of a drug on a man. You can see the toll the drug is taking on his life. First everything's up, as his career soars, his life becomes exciting, and he starts to make a fortune in cash. And then the spiral tops out and you witness the gradual disintegration of the man, his career and his life. It's fascinating, and superbly observed. Very gripping, very imaginative, quite enthralling.

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