They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Review of Concrete Desert (written for Amazon)

I am a big fan of crime novels by the likes of Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, Randy Wayne White and Dave Barry. What they have in common is that they all take place in Florida, where crime, corruption and buffoonery are rampant due to an industry called growth and an abundance of people who couldn't quite make it where they came from so they pulled up stakes and moved there. I have lived for the last 28 years in Phoenix, Arizona, which is essentially that same place with a radically different though equally uncomfortable climate. It always amazed me that no one had used it as a setting for a humorous crime novel before. We certainly have our share of nutcakes.

Jon Talton has solved that. His David Mapstone novels, of which Concrete Desert is the first, are written from the point of view of a native Phoenician who knows where all of the bodies are buried. Jon was columnist for the Arizona Republic (sadly his voice will no longer be heard there due to a recent "reorganization"). The local flavor, both from that standpoint of opinion (his depiction of our self-agrandizing sheriff was accurate) and of detail are delightful. The novels are in first person, with historian/sheriff's deputy David Mapstone the narrator. Mapstone lives in a 1924 Monterrey Revival house in Phoenix's Willo Historic District. In real life, that is where Talton lives. I live in Willo too, 5 blocks north of there in a 1941 Minimal Traditional. So when Mapstone walks to the Jack-in-the-Box on McDowell to use the payphone, that is where I get my burgers. Anyway, anybody who know Phoenix and its history will enjoy this book and the ones that follow it.

Unfortunately, the stories themselves are not that great. If they were set in Louisville (and I confess I know nothing about Louisville) I wouldn't have much interest in them. If the reader doesn't know much about our nation's 5th largest city (sorry Philadelphia) then this probably wouldn't be too great a read. Stick with Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard.

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