BOOK | FICTION | HORROR
LAST DAYS BY BRIAN EVENSON
RATING: ★ ★
I had been looking hard for a killer horror noir novel ever since reading FALLING ANGEL by William Hjortsberg, a stellar benchmark of the sub-genre that is in close competition for greatness with ANGEL HEART, its movie adaptation starring Mickey Rourke.
I eventually came across a couple of pretty good lists of horror noir books and found that LAST DAYS was high on both of them.
In Last Days I thought for sure I had a ringer.
And then when I began reading Peter Straub’s introduction for it there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was going to be the absolutely best horror noir book I had ever read.
I mean, Straub’s intro is one of the most interesting and informative intros I’ve ever read. And in the first half of it, he talked Evenson up as if the dude is the Da Vinci of horror.
I couldn’t wait to begin reading the book, so when I got to the second half of the intro where Straub begins dissecting the novel itself, I skipped it and went straight to the story.
Gawd, I wanted to like this story so much it hurt…
But not as much as it hurt reading it.
I mean, there were several points in the story where I thought, okay, here we go. It’s gonna kick in right… now.
But unfortunately it never had enough mojo to get things fired up enough for me to really get into it.
However, I must say, it sure has all the elements in place for it to be one helluva horror noir…
- It has a lost hope protagonist who is forced by dark force circumstances to become the hard boiled investigator in search of, not a criminal or the resolution of a crime, but of a means to save his own life…
- It has not one but two evil, warped nemesis’ who are the leaders of horrific religious cults — together they had founded the original cult, but as is usually the case with wacky religions, there was a schism that pitted the two against each other — where its worshipers must mutilate themselves to show their piety and devotion. The more mutilated they become, they more devout and higher-ranking they become.
- And it has a fast-paced, starkly-written narrative (I have never been able to fully immerse myself in and enjoy works that are overly detailed, a la a Dickens or a Balzac).
Even though the book is set up as nicely as it is, the dialogue ruins it completely. It’s lame, ridiculously flaccid.
I don’t know why, but for some reason Everson felt the need to lace just about all the dialogue with comedic and satiric undertones.
Undertones that absolutely did not work for me.
It was like watching a failed skit of Abbot and Costello impersonators.
In fact, there were two inane Tweedledee and Tweedledum-like characters who, with their vapid, childish dialogue reminded me of K’s annoying assistants, the twins Jeremias and Artur from Franz Kafka’s The Castle.
Yeah… more pain.
Nothing in the story worked for me — there isno hard-boiled-ness to it at all; there is no gritty noir texture to it whatsoever.
I was so disappointed when I finished the novel that I went charging back to the introduction to finish reading what Straub had to say about it.
It was hard for me to believe that what he beautifully describes as a masterpiece was the same story that I had just finished reading.
It really is a such a great intro, so interesting, so smart, so well-written, that I should give the book an extra star just for being associated with it.
But I won’t…
Because I’m pissed that, despite the intro’s glamour, it is nothing but a slew of hyperbole and over-inflated hype (yeah I like redundancies, so what?).
But you know what pisses me off even more?
In the intro Straub talks up another of Evenson’s book so well that I really, really want to read it, despite knowing that it’s probably nothing but lies.
The fool that I am, I’m sure in due course I’ll end up reading it and suffer the painful consequences yet again.
Kind of like child birth, am I right ladies?
TL;DR: The book stinks but it has a fantastic, although fallacious, intro by Peter Straub.
FEATURED IMAGE COURTESY COFFEE HOUSE PRESS