Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Book: Saturday’s Child, by Ray Banks (U.S. 2008)

I’ve linked to Banks more than once. You want to talk horror, he’s your man. We email back and forth on occasion. He is, as they say, good people.

He’s also a novelist, with several critically acclaimed titles to his credit. Alas, not readily available in America.

Saturday’s Child changes that. I grabbed it ASAP, with a single thought in mind: I hope this doesn’t suck. Those emails are gonna be awkward.

Good news all around. Saturday’s Child is, as they say, a damn fine piece of work.

Cal Innes, back on his feet after a stint in prison, is trying to make a go of it as a private investigator when he gets a call from Manchester kingpin Morris Tiernan. Cal went down to cover for Tiernan’s psycho son Mo, and to Tiernan this means Cal owes him a favor. It should be a simple job: track down a blackjack dealer who lit out with some money that wasn’t his. Naturally, Tiernan is leaving a few select details out. And Mo, not exactly a fan, is shadowing Cal for reasons of his own.

It’s the voice that grabs you from the jump, tough, spare, always human. When Banks makes one of his effortless switches from Cal’s perspective to Mo’s, you know whose head you’re in before the first period. Saturday’s Child is intimate in both story and action. When the blows come Cal feels them, and so do you.

What impressed me most was how the book revitalizes the P.I. genre. The last few novels of the type I read, some of them well-regarded, felt secondhand and hollow. Banks has come up with a living, breathing example of the form, one that should win him plenty of fans on this side of the pond. I can’t wait to see what Innes, the poor bastard, gets up to next.

But for the record, Banks, I still like Shoot ‘Em Up.