Tuesday, July 29, 2008



I keep up better than most when it comes to all the new noir stuff that's coming out, but even I miss some things. The books and movies in this series will not be brand-spanking new like everything else I cover but older stuff, stuff I missed when they first came out. Enjoy!


I've read all the series stuff by Bruen (Jack Taylor, Sgt. Brant) and all of his Hardcase books with Jason Starr (The MAX is on the way!!!) and even his standalone (also his best) novel American Skin, but I have missed a lot of his older work. London Boulevard isn't all that old comparatively, but it ain't new either. Anyway, it caught my eye because over at http://www.kenbruen.com/ it was posted that The Departed screenwriter William Monahan is adapting London Boulevard for the talking pictures. I loved The Departed, I love Bruen, I love movies. The book seemed like it could do no wrong!

And it doesn't, really. It is top-notch Bruen storytelling. It has all his little tricks and quirks on display and it's a lot of fun...but there are just some things in there that are absolute...what-the-fuck-is-that-in-here-for kind of things. Okay, I'm not making much sense. Let me back up a little bit.

Mitchell has just gotten out of prison after serving some solid years for beating a guy within an inch of his life. Upon his release he has it pretty easy. A villain friend of his named Norton has given him a sweet flat to stay in situated in a trendy part of London. He saves some woman from muggers and she sets him up with a cush job at a rich old actress's house as a handyman where he's paid a boatload. Said old actress is pretty hot-looking for her years and she likes to hop on him now and again. All in all, not a bad gig.

But you've heard this set up before, you know that something evil is just around the corner.

Norton's boss wants to pull him back into the fold of evil once more, and Mitchell is up for it. To add gas to the fire, he falls for a pretty little colleen and the old actress fuck buddy and her strange eastern European butler aren't fans of such an occurence. And his daffy sister Briony is up to her old crazy ways once more as well. All of this escalates in the out-of-left-field way that Bruen has become known for, leading to many murdered and much loss for our hero.

All in all, that's a pretty good story. A little old-school, but in Bruen's hands it's swift and fresh. Mitchell is a good character who, naturally, loves crime novels and pop music and likes to remind the reader of said affinities over and over. If I wasn't such a big fan of Bruen I would have probably LOVED this book. But since I'm seasoned, jaded, I was a little let down.

The main reason is this: What is with the old actress and her crazy European butler? The storyline has a couple variations from it, but all in all it is fucking William Holden, Erich Von Stroheim and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. And he's obviously trying to make the connection. I mean, the book is called London Blvd. But why? What does he really add to the story that really warrants a retelling? I can't figure out why he was so enamored with the idea, why he felt he had to throw in his two-cents on a classic movie.

Aside from that things are mostly solid. The bad guys weren't really all that threatening in the end, but the "twist" makes that clear why that was Bruen's choice. The story was a little predictable but Bruen's style and choices always make that a non-issue. He can take something old and make it exciting again. Just look at what he did for P.I novels and police procedurals with the Taylor and Brant series.

But my question is this: Out of all the awesome shit that Bruen has done over the years, why is this the one to adapt? William Monahan wrote a mean, edgy script for one of the best crime movies in recent years so he's obviously got a plan up his sleeve. But seriously, what is it?

I mean, I'm glad that nobody is attempting to flat-out remake Sunset Blvd because that would just make thousands angry (and no money). But if that was your intent, to make something kind of similar to Sunset Blvd, why choose something that has essentially the same story within it, while surrounded by some pretty good peripheral crimes as well? Okay, looking back on that last sentence, I may have just answered my own question. But I really think that without the narrator, the written style, that this will be hard to make a decent movie out of. I mean, all of Bruen's books are that way, where if you just make it about the events it doesn't really give your the point or even the flavor, but this one especially. Out of all the Bruen books I'd like to see adapted (even if they ended up shitty), this one would undoubtedly be last on the list.

That being said, there isn't a book on that list I wouldn't be first in line for at the movies.

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