The Sentry

[Amazon Link]

Robert Crais is on my very short buy-in-hardcover list, and this is his latest. (Update: but the Amazon link has been updated to point to the paperback.) It's billed as a "Joe Pike novel", but Pike's partner, Elvis Cole, is also around to assist.

While gassing up his Jeep, Joe's attention is diverted by a ruckus at a local sandwich shop: a couple of minor thugs are attempting a shakedown of the proprietor and his lovely niece. Joe, of course, makes short work of the bad guys. But something about the niece catches his eye, and they seem to have at least the beginnings of a Meaningful Relationship.

But (fortunately for the reader) things aren't that simple. Uncle and niece have been on the run from a psychotic hired killer for years. They almost immediately go missing, with no explanation. Joe enlists Elvis in the hunt—will they find the fleeing couple before the bad guy does?

When I first started reading Crais, Elvis was a relatively cheerful private eye, always quick with a clever wisecrack. I miss that; now he's somber and haunted. (Conversely, in the earlier novels Joe Pike was a stoic and opaque force of nature, seemingly without emotion. I miss that too: Crais has made him more normal.)

Without spoiling things too much: in this book, I'm a little bothered that the prodigal efforts of Joe and Elvis do not really manage to resolve things satisfactorily. There's an impressive body count of both good guys and bad, but it's not clear that things would have been much worse if Joe had simply walked away in Chapter One.

Last Modified 2017-12-03 7:07 AM EST

Sweet Smell of Success

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I put this 1957 movie on my Netflix queue when Tony Curtis died a while back and John Nolte deemed it to be Curtis's best film. Yes, it's got acting out the wazoo. But it's another critical favorite that I just didn't enjoy. As always, your mileage may vary.

Burt Lancaster plays J.J. Hunsecker, an extremely powerful newspaper columnist. (It's said that he's based on Walter Winchell.) He uses the power of his mighty typewriter to both make and destroy careers. Following him like a remora is Tony Curtis's character, Sidney Falco, a press agent who lives and dies by getting (or not getting) his clients mentioned in Hunsecker's column.

As the movie opens, the main plot is already in progress: Hunsacker is upset about his sister's romance with a jazz guitarist (Martin Millner!) He's tasked Sidney with breaking up the happy couple in a way that can't be traced back. Much of the movie details Sidney's increasingly desperate efforts to plant rumors that Millner is a dope-smokin' Commie. (Never mind that at least the dope-smokin' bit was probably a prerequisite for 50's professional jazz musicians.)

Neither Falco nor Hunsacker are remotely sympathetic characters, and just about everyone else views them with varying mixtures of fear and loathing. They move mostly at night through a variety of Manhattan clubs, restaurants, bars, and theatres. The overall atmosphere, even in the superficially glamorous nightspots, is one of unremitting seediness and corruption.

But that's just not my cup of tea, sorry. In addition, the dialogue (which, mind you, some critics just love) was phony and contrived to my ear, the screenwriter dazzling himself with his own cleverly-turned phrases.

Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:11 AM EST