Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: DARK RIDE by Kent Harrington

"The things they used, the ropes, the safety handcuffs, Eve's special leather halters and hoods, the leashes, were all hung up neatly in the walk-in closet in the basement. Eve had a girl clean up afterward, so that when they first arrived, the house was always spotless and smelled of disinfectant. It was always the same. They met in the afternoons. There was very little talking, really; she didn't like to talk much before. They would do the drug; it was part of the ritual; it gave them the power to leave the normal and reach the other side. Speed made hours and hours of sex possible. It also made you mean. It was then, if you'd been in the alley on the second day, or even the third day (no one lasted longer than three days, even with the drug), you would have heard something, certainly."

That beautiful little paragraph does not appear half-way through Dark Ride like it would in your normal novel - no sir. It is on page three. Insurance salesman Jimmy Rogers and Eve, the wife of his boss and friend Phil, are that fucking awesomely depraved at the beginning of the novel. You know right off the bat that these two are gonna do some fucked up shit to keep this thing they got going, that their obsession is gonna take them on, you know, a dark ride.

1996 gave the world two great debuts from authors that would go on to have great careers in crime fiction: Miami Purity by Vicki Hendricks and Dark Ride by Kent Harrington. Thing is, both novels are classic James M. Cain-style noirs about sexual obsession. What was the fucking deal? I mean, we can't put it all on Clinton but...come on. What are the odds that two amazing sex-crazed crime classic debuts would come out at the same time? Oh, and by the way: Grad students looking for an awesome thesis - you're welcome.

Dark Ride is a classic story of a sleazy guy whose involvement with a sexpot makes him into an even sleazier dude, involving him in murder, blackmail, corruption and all kinds of other dark awesomeness. Think of Body Heat, Double Indemnity, Postman Always Rings Twice - all those "let's kill my husband and live happily ever after together" stories - then turn that shit up past eleven and you come somewhere in the vicinity of how bat-shit this stuff is. There's twisted and sick and then three miles after that you find Dark Ride.

And the book would be just fucking golden if it was nothing but a revamping of a classic story, but thankfully it is so much more. With the town of Clarksville, California Harrington has created a frightening little hamlet where the ugly past seems to raise it's head and bite you in the ass every couple of hours. Because you see, Jimmy Rogers isn't just fucked because he's boning a psycho - he probably would have been fucked simply for being the son of an influential evil politician. Clarksville isn't in California, it's in the darkest depths of fucking Hades.

Okay, but I'm still just talking about plot shit, getting caught up in the moment. Sorry, it happens when the Nerd gets worked up. I could talk about the impeccable, delicious prose that Harrington just seems to shit out on the page, but you read that awesome paragraph up top so you can tell that this dude can write like a fucking demon dog. I could talk about the sneaky little surprises Harrington reveals about his beautifully conceived protagonist Jimmy Rogers, but then I'd be spoiling the fun. I could talk about the careful attention to detail, the great supporting cast of characters, the horrifyingly rendered violence, the perfect unraveling of the plot, the ridiculous depravity of Eve - but all my lizard brain can think to rave and rant about is just how crazy fucking DARK this shit is, how Harrington never lets up, how he never fails to go absolutely all the goddamn way.

This is the kind of crime fiction that makes me want to shout "I CAN'T BELIEVE SOMEBODY ACTUALLY WENT THERE!" to anybody that will listen to my insane ramblings. This is the stuff that makes me thankful that a publisher had the huge fucking brass ones to let a book like this see the light of day, thankful that this crazy-ass manuscript is not getting moldy in some cardboard box in a dank basement. This is the kind of pulp I am constantly searching for - challenging, unrelenting, alarming. Dark Ride reminds me that somebody out there must like their entertainment as ape-shit as I do.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Looks like a great one and another I haven't read. Thanks.

jedidiah ayres said...

Dia de los Muertos by Harrington - like Touch of Evil on acid. Under-read author for sure.

Kent said...

Kent Harrington is a top shelf writer. Each one of his novels are essential reads, if you ask me. He's a hell of a good guy, too.

Mystery Dawg said...

Kent Harrington is a master. Read them ALL. His latest, THE GOOD PHYSICAN is a masterpiece and a prime example of excellent story telling.

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