Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ken Bruen's ONCE WERE COPS (The Nerd Rage Edition)

I've posted many a rave review about Ken Bruen on the site and I'm sure some of my devoted readers (there has to be a couple of you out there) were wondering just when the Nerd would get off his ass and review Once Were Cops, the latest book sure to win "the Ryan Adams of the crime fiction world" yet even more fans. Well, I'll tell you what was up with the delay, dear readers, I'll tell you toot-fucking-sweet:

I waited for it to arrive at my local library.

Now you're saying to yourself: Nerd, what the fuck? Why don't you support Bruen monetarily? You dig his books and want him to keep on trucking so why don't you cough up the fucking bucks already?

Well, my answer is this: Have you looked at the hardcover of Once Were Cops? It is the biggest waste of trees I have ever seen - and I was a creative writing major (I may have just lost some peer editors with that one...)! His epigrams that appear before every new chapter apparently have to appear on the right-hand page and same goes for the beginning of the fresh chapter. Therefore, if a chapter ends on page forty-one you have a blank forty-two, an epigram on forty-three, another blank forty-four, then finally the new chapter on forty-five. That is three wasted pages, seeing how the epigram could just have gone on the new chapter page! What the fuck!?

And then there's the actual layout of pages themselves. There is a space between every paragraph - and loyal readers know that Bruen RARELY does paragraphs anymore so in other words there's a space between every fucking sentence! American readers have become used to this from St. Martin's hardcovers of his Taylor novels, but never to this ridiculous extreme. It has gone too far, I say! Too bloody fucking farrrr!!!

Okay, I have collected myself. Deep breath.

Let me offer an alternative, good people at St. Martin's: Why not do mass market (the horror!) versions with tricked out covers and designs for Bruen's books for awhile. I mean, the dude seems to shit awesome novels and now has a pretty sizeable base of readers - so why not? If you use some creative juice, it could be a whole new thing in publishing.

And I'm not saying you should totally rip off Hard Case either.

Nobody does mass markets that look sharp and wrap around the spine the way they do with hardcovers and trade paperbacks anymore - so start the trend. Enough with this 22.95-for-a-"three-hundred"-page-book-when-we-all-fucking-know-it's-more-like-a-one-fifty-page-novella-at-best bullshit. The economy's a little tight, and therefore the book budget is tight too. Keep this up and we're gonna look elsewhere.

And don't give me the "quality over quantity" bullshit. It doesn't float here. I have to pay the same price for a Carol Higgins Clark for dear old gram as I do for a Ken Bruen therefore there is no fucking quality over quantity argument. It's about the product, the weight, the dimensions, the materials, the shipping, etc. Don't fuck with me, youse.


On to the actual review! Waddaya say?

Once Were Cops is some solid shit, a nice break from the steadily increasing bleakness of the Taylor novels and the steadily increasing ridiculousness of the Brant novels. We follow young Shea as he makes his way from being Galway Guard (after a brief chat with Jack Taylor, establishing that the novels are in the same world, for those who don't remember) to the NYPD thanks to some dirt he has on a corrupt Galwegian politician. There he is partnered up with Kebar, a dirty Polack cop with one of them attitude problems.

Turns out both these fellas have some nasty secrets.

Shea's is that he is a serial killer whose MO is strangling pretty women with swan-like necks with green rosary beads. Kebar's is that he has a beautiful sister with a swan-like neck and a mind like a five-year-0ld living in a fancy nursing home, an expense that Kebar pays for with his mob money. Wouldn't you know it? These two secrets collide!

It's sick, dark stuff that reads hyper-fast and, thanks to Bruen's knack with rules-be-damned-post-modern-surprises, is...surprising. It will no doubt win him some new fans and please old ones, but it isn't the opus I've been reading about as I waited for the library to buy the damned book already. No, that title still belongs to American Skin, the greatest use of Bruen's gifts thus far.

However, it should be said that there were a few quibbles I had with some of Bruen's "Americanese," some dialogue in particular that didn't ring true (a certain character saying "tarnation" made me wince), and the timeline gets murky in the middle of the novel (Shea's romance with Nora progresses really quickly and how long is Kebar off on a bender?)...

But that said, this is probably the most satisfying of his novels since American Skin so yeah, it's pretty solid stuff, almost worth the trees needlessly wasted in its printing (wow, that reads harsh if you just skipped to the bottom for a recap).

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