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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Serialist

The Serialist
by David Gordon
(4/5 stars)
I was predisposed to liking this book as I wrote a very similar character to Harry Bloch in my novel Where You Belong.  That is a writer who gets by writing under pen names that sometimes are not of the same gender as the real author.  In my case the male author wrote a YA sci-fi series under the pseudonym of an Irish woman.  In "The Serialist," author Harry Bloch writes porn, sci-fi, "urban" detective novels, and lately vampire novels by using a variety of aliases; the pseudonym for the latter series is actually his mother's identity.

Despite publishing dozens of books, Harry has never published under his own name and he makes only enough money to get by.  He lives in his mother's former house, alone after his ex found greener literary pastures.  The closest he has to an agent is a 15-year-old girl named Claire whom he "tutors" by writing term papers for her.

So it's not much of a surprise that Harry jumps at the opportunity to ghost write the autobiography of notorious serial killer Damian Clay.  Clay is on death row and slated to be executed in just three months.  In exchange for providing his story, Clay wants Harry to visit some of Clay's fans and write perverse stories about them for Clay's amusement.  While Harry is reluctant to go along with this, ultimately it's an opportunity he can't pass up.

From there things take a deadly turn.  Really the second half of the book plays out like a two-part episode of "Murder She Wrote" where Harry takes on the case.  Actually it would make for a good series on the USA Network with the unconventional detective and his equally unconventional sidekicks Claire and a stripper named Dani who's the sister of one of Clay's victims.  The last fifty pages especially drag along as Harry unravels the last few clues of the mystery and things run their course.

I suppose, though, that if this never turns into high art or "literature" that's keeping in character.  It's hard to believe someone like Harry could suddenly create a stunning masterpiece.  Then again it's hard to believe he does a number of things he does in the book, so here we are.
Anyway, the narrative is witty and engaging.  Harry is a lovable loser, not a Sam Spade-type detective, which makes the story fun as it goes along.  I am disappointed though that, as I said, the second half comes off as a TV detective show, but then I was probably hoping for something too much from a mere serialist.

That is all.

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