Blog Archives

Sirk TV Book Review: LOST TOMORROWS [Oceanview]

The interesting thing about having spent a lot of time in a place is that it really gives a sense of perspective. When it is LA or NY or something similar, it becomes a fully shared experience. Santa Barbara as a rule of thumb is a much smaller community. Creating a modern noir on the American Riviera and still making it feel local and not elitist is a hard balance to come by. “Lost Tomorrows” [Matt Coyle/Oceanview/368pgs], even though many times it deals too much in absolutes, has a great through line running through it. While likely not a great recruiting tool for the police department, its sense of geography down to even a phone booth shows an undeniable aspect of details. While it lays into fairly cliche territory at times, the pulp ideal of its fiction works pretty well, especially in the aspect of Rick Chaill, a PI with smarts who at times is too stupid for his own good because he can’t come to terms with his own psyche. All the different characters work well and have their own reasoning even though you hate most of everyone in the end but they all have their own reasons for being the way they are. In that way it does feel like a thriller in a similar way to “Basic Instinct” but without the full sexualized background of that. The lead character Cahill comes back to Santa Barbara after being vilified and accused of his wife’s murder many years before. He returns when his former partner and one time lover on the force (Krista) seemingly gets killed by a drunk driver on State Street. Cahill becomes embroiled with her sister Leah whom Cahill seems to see a lot of his perceptions in. There are many plot strands that aren’t completely balanced along with certain motivations but it still moves. And Cahill’s approaches to crimes and morally progressive actions at times don’t jive with what the story could be. That said, it is undeniably entertaining and its resolution expected when you think about it but not exactly what one would think. In that way it knows what it is, paints a world but also draws you into the characters head space, however misaligned it is.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Book Review: PASSENGER 19 [Oceanview]

passenger19The essence of a kidnapping story is finding the basis by which you care for the characters. If a sense of loss or tension is not created then the progression of the narrative won’t work. In “Passenger 19” [Ward Larsen/Oceanview/386pgs], everything seems to work well on all counts. This is helped by the character of Jammer Davis who, like someone like Dirk Pitt gets his humor right and could distinctly be made eventually into a franchise character on film. The basis of the story in “Passenger 19” is that our man Jammer is an airline crash investigator for the NTSB. When a plane goes mysteriously down in Colombia, he quickly realizes through his friend and sometimes employer at the CIA, that his daughter might be one of the victims. Jammer heads down south of the border but he begins to uncover details, especially being helped both by an unscheduled G3 flights and quick satellite photos, that makes him realize that something is going on behind the scenes. TheĀ  structure of the book works well because it operates on the slow build so you realize what Jammer is doing. A lot of it is integrated on the details of the crash with Bogota as the backdrop. It all whittles down with a bit of humor which allows the progression to not become downtrodden. what tends to function best is that the action is punctuated and not without reason. There are also quick blips back to the U.S. for quick story points. This makes the story extremely filmable from an adaptation standpoint. The crux of most of the story lies in a why the plane was actually deliberately crashed in the first place. The reveal of those details actually works pretty well in that it involves a cover up and Secret Service protection. Eventually our hero becomes the focus of trying to be pushed off the investigation but it is his daughter at stake. And while that story point is the most cliche, it also makes the most logical sense. The final integration of some DEA guys to make the circle complete as they take on an isolated Colombian stronghold makes good logical sense and provides an adequate climax. Everybody gets what they want and even among the returning factors, Jammer gets a nice epilogue that solidifies the character. Despite the characterization being in the vein of a Bruce Willis or Wesley Snipes vehicle, it does qualify as good entertainment.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Book Review: NIGHT TREMORS [Oceanview]

night-tremors

The aspect of a good noir thriller uses the elements of knowing its lead character and then flipping it so he is always catching up. Like any down-on-his-luck former cop, there has to be a sense of a journey or, at least, a clawing back from the cliff. In “Night Tremors” [Matt Coyle/Oceanview/330pgs], PI Rick Cahill just wants to do his thing. He could have Martin Riggs complex (like in “Lethal Weapon” but he is no psycho. He just was framed for the death of his wife which his good friends at the PD could never make stick. Cahill was made a scapegoat for unapparent reasons but it sent him to the fringes of PI society peeping on adulterers and giving the photos to the jealous spouses who hired him. This specific tale shows him wanting to work on a case “to make a difference”. The novel is filled with all kinds of unsavory and colorful characters that bring to mind “Inherent Vice” with less of a need for poetry. This character is probably what The Dude might be doing if he didn’t smoke weed and got a job. Everybody has to have their own little slice of life. Anyway, Cahill does want to think he has a leg up on the rest of the people in the story. But as usual in these kinds of stories, he is being played like everyone else. It is just a matter of how pigheaded he wants to be about the whole scenario. The great thing about how this character is built is that despite breaking the law, he doesn’t truly seem like he is really overstepping his bounds. In certain arenas, you actually like that he is a bit of a pain-in-the-ass. And yet he can feel guilty about taking a case because he likes the client’s cookies (chocolate chip by the way). As reality sets in, the different side traps of women including the sister of a would-be confessor and an ex girlfriend (that still does him favors but he can’t quite commit to) definitely pushes the every man feel. The setting has just the right kind of Southern California sun in La Jolla but without the Hollywood scummy sheen. This geography allows everything from cowboy (literally) lawyers to scummy golf course owners to bad ass biker criminals to sail right in. The ending has the right degree of self righteousness without truly making the resolution solid. However it is good to leave some things to mystery because not every question needs to be answered.

B

By Tim Wassberg

%d bloggers like this: