August 16, 2013 by Laird
I’m consolidating things onto this site, so here is a review I first ran on my LJ a couple of years ago.
There is a peculiar synergy between noir, crime fiction, and horror. It wouldn’t surprise me, were I to analyze it more thoroughly, that John D. MacDonald, Donald Westlake, and Robert Parker tales of hard boiled modern day knights, treacherous scoundrels, and sloe-eyed vamps and the assorted skullduggery sum and sundry found themselves enmeshed within had as much or more to do with my becoming a horror writer than the bloody works of King or Barker.
Nonetheless, some crime fiction cuts a hell of a lot closer to the bone than others, a good example being the raw and somewhat horrific exploits of narcoleptic PI Mark Genevich in The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland by Paul Tremblay.
More recently, I got into a book called Street Raised by Pearce Hansen. This novel is a beautiful and horrifying proposition. Hansen’s writing evokes an almost paralyzing aura of authenticity. His description of prison life and the life of a brutal con after he’s been turned back out onto the street, or “raised,” following a stint of hard time, is neither for the weak-kneed nor the prudish. Hansen’s depiction of human predatory wildlife is sharp, yet neither glorifies nor condemns its subject. More like he’s simply clicked on the camera and the secret microphone and allows nature to take its course. All told, this novel in following the grim and all too human exploits of an eclectic cast of thugs, murderous drug dealers, kamikaze bouncers, phone psychics with hearts of gold, and, most prominently, the freshly raised Speedy as that urban prowler returns to his Bay area hunting grounds, contains more bloody darkness in one pinky than ten times its weight in typical category horror fare. I’m one jaded fella when it comes to shocks in literature, and I was gratified at how many moments Street Raised raised my hackles or caused me to reread a paragraph because I couldn’t quite accept that I’d seen what I’d seen. Hansen’s delivery is nothing like Cormac McCarthy’s, but this novel possessed a few visceral and nasty surprises that put it in the same territory of viciousness and macabre grandeur as Blood Meridian.
As I said in a previous post, there is something of Michael Shea’s street beat poetics in Hansen’s rhythmic prose, and maybe a tab or two of whatever psychedelic Cody Goodfellow mixes into his morning joe, and maybe even a slight hint of what it would look like if Wambaugh stopped giving a rat’s ass about anyone else in the entire world, hitched up his suspenders, spit into his cupped palms, and then grabbed an axe and started in with blood in his eye.