Saturday, 10 May 2008

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Some books are just straight disturbing – this is one of them.

I initially thought it was only a tacky thrill getter – bit of sex, bit of violence and a ‘tough talking dude’ – but once I broke through that (and it did take some breaking through) I realized this is quite a well written book.

It is about violence – it is about alienation – it is about deprivation and emotional screw-up: It is about justice and the perverseness of morality.

That is a pretty strong cocktail, and the language, of necessity, is harsh, unforgiving and downright brutal at points.

So too the plot – with an economy to be admired, there is an attempted murder, a successful murder and an accident resulting in another kind of murder … all in the space of around 120 pages.

Women get slapped around – and like it: Men get beaten-up - and don’t. It is the ‘film-noir’ world beloved of the gangster genre. But this is not a gangster book.

The chief character is a drifter – he bums around America - scratching a living here, stealing there, spending short periods in jail before moving on.

He drifts into a situation where his animal driven lusts and craftiness allow access to what I am tempted to say is a perfect partner for him. There is the problem of her husband – and their attempt to remove him forms the spine of the story.

But, ‘As flies to wanton boys … ‘

The God’s agents are the forces of law and order – who are playing a game with lesser mortals. Any sense of justice or basic human decency is soon swept away once we encounter the petty motives fuelling both defence and prosecution.

I have to admit, I am reminded of Tess, of Lear and Heathcliffe … pretty strong company for a pot-boiler to evoke.

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