My review of Stephen King's new crime novel Mr Mercedes from yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald. Don't want to bury the lede here, but safe to say Mr Mercedes isn't King's finest hour... Many bad crime novels begin with graphic violence, particularly violence towards children. Bad crime writers fear that unless the stakes are raised sufficiently at the start, their story-telling skills alone won’t be deft enough for potential readers to continue with the book. But if the villain is a depraved monster who does terrible things by, say, page six then the angry reader will be hooked. It’s instructive then that Stephen King begins his first foray into the private-eye genre, Mr Mercedes, with a car ploughing into a crowd of unemployed, desperate individuals queuing overnight at a jobs fair. This mass slaughter kills eight people, including a mother we have just got to know who is nursing her new-born baby. After this bloody prologue the action shifts to retired Mid-West homicide detective Bill Hodges, who spends his days watching Jerry Springer, drinking beer and contemplating suicide. King knows that this is a cliche, but mentioning what a cliche it is in the book is not the meta-textual inoculation from criticism the author thinks it is. The jobs-fair killer, nicknamed Mr Mercedes by the press, is a 20-something computer geek called Brady Hartsfield who has a very unhealthy relationship with his mother. We have seen this before too, in Psycho and in King’s own Sleepwalkers. To further underline his villainy, Brady is also an ice-cream van driver who hates children and, naturally, an invective-spewing racist.
Brady gets in contact with Bill and invites him into an online chat forum where he hopes to taunt the cop into killing himself, but the scheme backfires as the wily old detective uses the chat forum to track Brady down. The police procedural part of the story is well told. King has a handle on the mechanics of an investigation and I particularly liked the way Hodges unpacked the killer’s poisoned pen letters. King is a writer equally at home in the world of screenplays and the frequent screenplay-like shifts in chronology and point of view worked well in the first third of the book.
King name checks James Patterson in Mr Mercedes and his storytelling is very much in this mould. King seems unconcerned that writers such as James Ellroy, James Lee Burke and Dennis Lehane have raised the prose standards in contemporary crime fiction. For King, like Patterson, the words are there only to service the plot. The pages must turn and they must turn as fast as possible. With unblushing chutzpah at one point in Mr Mercedes King complains about the poor dialogue in the TV shows NCIS, Bones and Dexter which is a little bit rich for someone who has an African-American character talk in a comedic slave patois for much of the book to the inexplicable delight of the white people around him.
“Massa Hodges goan have to find hisself a new lawnboy!” Jerome exclaims, and Janey laughs so hard she has to spit a bite of shrimp into her napkin.
King’s other démodé attempts at humour are equally disastrous and will illicit few chuckles, I suspect, in anyone not of King’s generation.*
The cat and mouse plot of Mr Mercedes and the sparring between criminal and cop will be familiar to those who have read Charles Willeford’s crime classic, Miami Blues, but this, alas, is a contemporary rewrite that lacks much of Willeford’s wit and psychological acumen.
In a review of Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch last year King expressed bafflement and exasperation at Tartt’s writing pace. How could any novel take a decade to finish, he wondered, when he writes two books a year? The irony here is that with a little more time and effort and much tighter editing, King’s first attempt in this genre could actually have been pretty good.
... ... * I wonder too if the unabashed use of the 'N' word and the embarrassed veil drawn over the sex scenes is also a generational quirk?
I was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. After studying philosophy at Oxford University I emigrated to New York City where I lived in Harlem for seven years working in bars, bookstores, building sites and finally the basement stacks of the Columbia University Medical School Library in Washington Heights.
In 2000 I moved to Denver, Colorado where I taught high school English and started writing fiction in earnest. My first full length novel Dead I Well May Be was shortlisted for the 2004 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and was picked by Booklist as one of the 10 best crime novels of the year.
In mid 2008 I moved to St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia with my wife and kids. My last book In The Morning I'll Be Gone won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award.
"If Raymond Chandler had grown up in Northern Ireland he would have written The Cold Cold Ground."
"Hardboiled charm, evocative dialogue, an acute sense of place and a sardonic sense of humour make McKinty one to watch."
"A literary thriller that is as concerned with exploring the poisonously claustrophobic demi-monde of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and the self-sabotaging contradictions of its place and time, as it is with providing the genre’s conventional thrills and spills. The result is a masterpiece of Troubles crime fiction: had David Peace, Eoin McNamee and Brian Moore sat down to brew up the great Troubles novel, they would have been very pleased indeed to have written The Cold Cold Ground."
---The Irish Times
"McKinty is a big new talent."
---The Daily Telegraph
"McKinty is a gifted man with poetry coursing through his veins and thrilling writing dripping from his fingertips."
---The Sunday Independent
"Adrian McKinty is fast gaining a reputation as the finest of the new generation of Irish crime writers, and it's easy to see why on the evidence of The Cold Cold Ground."
---The Glasgow Herald
"McKinty is a storyteller with the kind of style and panache that blur the line between genre and mainstream."
"McKinty's literate expertly crafted crime novel confirms his place as one of his generation's leading talents."
"McKinty crackles with raw talent. His dialogue is superb, his characters rich and his plotting tight and seemless. He writes with a wonderful and wonderfully humorous flair for language raising his work above most crime genre offerings and bumping it right up against literature."
---The San Francisco Chronicle
"McKinty keeps getting better. He melds the snap and crackle of the old Mickey Spillane tales with the literary skills of Raymond Chandler and sets it all down in his own artful way."
---The Rocky Mountain News
"The first of McKinty's Forsythe novels, "Dead I Well May Be," was intense, focused and entirely brilliant. This one is looser-limbed, funnier...so, I imagine, is the middle book, "The Dead Yard," which I haven't read but which Publishers Weekly included on its list of the 12 best novels of 2006, along with works by Peter Abrahams, Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy and George Pelecanos."
---The Washington Post
"McKinty, who grew up in Northern Ireland, has an ear for language and a taste for violence, and he serves up a terrifically gory, swiftly paced thriller."
---The Miami Herald
"There's nothing like an Irish tough guy. And we're not talking about Gentleman Gerry Cooney here. No, we mean the new breed of bare-knuckle Irish writers like Adrian McKinty, Ken Bruen and John Connolly who are bringing fresh life to the crime fiction genre."
---The Philadelphia Inquirer
"McKinty's writing is dark and witty with gritty realism, spot on dialogue, and fascinating characters."
---The Chicago Sun-Times
"If you like your noir staples such as beautiful women, betrayal, murder, mixed with a heavy dose of blood, crunched bones, body parts flying around served up with some throwaway humour, you need look no further, McKinty delivers all of this with the added bonus that the writing is pitch perfect."
---The Barcelona Review
"I really enjoyed [Dead I Well May Be’s] combination of toughness and a striking literary style. Both those things are evident in Hidden River. McKinty is going places."
"This is a terrific read. McKinty gives us a strong non stop story with attractive characters and fine writing."
---The Morning Star
"[McKinty] draws us close and relates a fantastic tale of murder and revenge in low, wry tones, as if from the next barstool...he drops out of conversational mode to throw in a few breathtaking fever-dream sequences for flavor. And then he springs an ending so right and satisfying it leaves us numb with delight and ready to pop for another round. Start the cliche machine: This is a profoundly satisfying book from a major new talent and one of the best crime fiction debuts of the year."
"The story is soaked in the holy trinity of the noir thriller: betrayal, money and murder, but seen through with a panache and political awareness that give McKinty a keen edge over his rivals."
---The Big Issue
"A darkly humorous cross between a hard-boiled mystery and a Beat novel."
---The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A roller coaster of highs and lows, light humour and dark deeds, the powerful undercurrent of McKinty's talent will swiftly drag you away. Let's hope the author does not slow down anytime soon."
---The Irish Examiner
"A virtual carnival of slaughter."
---The Wall Street Journal
"McKinty has once again harnassed the power of poetry, violence, lust and revenge to forge a sequel to his acclaimed Dead I Well May Be."
---The Irish Post
"A pacey, violent caper in which McKinty vividly portrays [Belfast's] sleazy, still-menacing underbelly."
---The Sunday Times
"McKinty writes with the soul of a poet; his prose dances off the pages with Old World grace and haunting intensity. It's crime fiction on the level of Michael Connolly with the conviction of James Hall."
---The Jackson Clarion-Ledger
"The Bloomsday Dead is the explosive final installment in a trilogy of kinetic thrillers."
---The New York Times
"Adrian McKinty has garnered nothing but praise for his first two books. The third in the trilogy The Bloomsday Dead should leave no doubt that he is a true star. Fast moving and highly engaging this is a great book. McKinty just gets better and better."
"Until The Dead Yard's relentless, poignant ending you'll turn these pages as quickly as you can."
---The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"McKinty's Dead Trilogy has been praised by critics, who call it "intense," "masterful" and "loaded with action." If your reading pleasure leans toward thrillers offering suspense, close calls, wry wit, sharp dialogue, local color and sudden mayhem, you wont do better."
---The Sacramento Bee
"Le Fleuve caché d'Adrian McKinty impressionne par la richesse et la diversité de son ton et de son écriture, passant avec aisance du lyrisme ample de la nostalgie de l'amour perdu au rythme saccadé du narrateur sous l'emprise de l'héroïne. Ce livre rare et maîtrisé est une réussite bien digne de la Série noire."
Eine eigentlich simple Story, die natürlich bereits als Grundlage für Hunderte Bücher und Filme diente, macht Adrian McKinty zu der mitreißenden Odyssee eines jungen Mannes, der in der Lage ist, sich seiner Umwelt anzupassen wie jene Kakerlaken, die er in seinem Harlemer Appartement jagt, studiert und sowohl angewidert awie anerkennend entkommen lässt. Nicht umsonst 1992 angesiedelt, ist Der sichere Tod der kongeniale Kommentar zum Wesen der Neunziger.
- Jochen König, krimi-couch.de
"McKinty - that guy is a friggin genius."
"McKinty is a cross between Mickey Spillane and Damon Runyan, the toughest, the best."
A couple more books, a few birthdays, some shuffleboard then a period spent in the digestive tract of earthworms, followed by molecular breakdown, the sun boiling into space, the heat death of the universe, atomic decay, perpetual darkness, a trillion years of nothingness and then, if we're lucky, brane collapse, a new singularity and a new Big Bang.
Me & the Mrs in our survivalist bunker
Adios and thank you for stopping by....
Humiliation, unhappiness, discord are the ancient foods of heroes---Jorge Luis Borges
The measure of a writer isn't success, but how hard he tried to do what he knew he couldn't do---William Faulkner
I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen---J G Ballard
I read the dictionary once . . . It turns out that the zebra did it --- Steven Wright
Times are bad. Children disobey their parents and everyone is writing a book---Cicero