Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Book: The Kind One, by Tom Epperson (2008)

Heading to California to make a name for yourself is perhaps the quintessential American story. Tom Epperson’s version is a pretty good one. He and childhood pal Billy Bob Thornton went west to break into show business. After kicking around for a hard ten years, they finally broke through with their script for One False Move, still a first-rate crime drama.

Los Angeles as a city of last chances and fresh starts looms large in Epperson’s first novel. It’s 1934, and “Two Gun” Danny Landon has a crease in his head where he was struck by a lead pipe, a severe case of amnesia, and a reputation as a tough guy that doesn’t sit right with him. He works for L.A. kingpin Bud Seitz, whose ironic nickname provides the book’s title. Bud gives Danny a choice assignment as bodyguard for his latest girlfriend Darla, a singer who is nowhere near as tough as she pretends to be.

It’s a classic noir set-up. Anyone familiar with the genre will quickly surmise who Danny is and be able to predict the fates that befall him, Bud, Darla, and the neighbors drawn into Danny’s orbit. But the characters are so well drawn that you won’t mind one bit. There are echoes of John Fante and Nathanael West here; Epperson writes with real feeling for the place and time, his story as rambling and expansive as the California landscape. I was more than happy to amble along with him.

Miscellaneous: Links

Gene Weingarten spends a grim 24 hours in the opinionscape of blogs, talk radio and cable news. Biggest surprise to me: you can now use “douche bag” as a pejorative in the august pages of the Washington Post. Oh, and pundustry, pundustry, pundustry. Read the article and you’ll know why I did that.

And the Los Angeles Times sets out in pursuit of John Hughes, the mystery man of 1980s cinema.