Outta here / Peter Moore Smith's "Los Angeles"
Alright, this is my last post as blog-sitter. I'd like to thank Jeff for letting hang around the place. (I hope I didn't drive away too many of your readers, man.) Up next is Commander (No, really!) Iain Rowan, writer of fantastic (in every sense of the word) short stories and finder of much weirdness. I'm sure he'll keep us all entertained.
Before I go, I'd like to talk a little bit about Peter Moore Smith's new novel, "Los Angeles".
Ahem... Peter Moore Smith's second novel, "Los Angeles", published this month by Little, Brown, and Company, is a twisting, turning piece of neon-lit noir. Set in the titular city (where else?) the character follows a character named Angel Veroncheck as he mounts a desperate search for his neighbour and kinda, sorta, girlfriend Angela (no last name.)
The back-story is more than a little complicated. Angel, the son of a Hollywood mega-producer and faded actress is an albino, prone to debilitating migraines when exposed to bright light, especially bright sunlight. As one might imagine this makes life in Los Angeles, by day at least, somewhat difficult.
On top of this Angels has other issues; he is what some people might call "fragile" with a medicine cabinet full of tranquilizers, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and stimulants. He spends most of his time in a tiny apartment with the shades drawn working on a seemingly endless screenplay, his only company a DVD of Ridley Scott's adaptation of "Blade Runner" set to constant repeat - he keeps the sound off as he has memorized every line of dialogue in the film.
He meets Angela, and things start to look up. Then Angela disappears.
Smith pulls off the story with considerable style and restraint. His writing is very much of the "damaged characters in extraordinary situations" school (trust me, *everyone* in this novel is carrying some kind of damage) but he never lets things get too far out. He builds tension and sets an appropriately paranoid tone but keeping things just this side of plausible.
More importantly, he has created an engaging set of characters. The reader wants to stick with these people, we want to know what happens, and it keeps us turning pages.
That's not to say that there aren't problems. Light, the concept of light, and the physical manifestation of light plays a very large part in the novel. At times Smith rides the light metaphor a bit too heavily - yes, Angel is an albino, yes he is obsessed with light, we get it.
Also, and this isn't a problem unique to Smith, but something that seems to afflict all writers, no matter what their preferred genre: There is a band in the book. The band's name is "ImmanuelKantLern." This is awful. I realize that about ninety-nine percent of band names are absolutely ridiculous, but really, ImmanuelKantLern?
Another, more serious problem, is the first section of the multi-staged ending - some readers will find it entirely appropriate, others (myself included) will groan.
All that aside, there's a lot to like. Smith has crafted and intense and very enjoyable novel that should grab readers both in genre and at the more adventurous end of the mainstream.