Monday, February 2, 2015

The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith

A few years ago I wrote that The Death of the Detective is "one of the great lost novels of any genre" and that "it’s the kind of book you long to find, then treasure when you do, mixing rhapsodic and original prose to create an eloquent and lyrical crime epic, as if Thomas Wolfe had written a crime novel". 

The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith is out in a reasonably priced e-book today from Brash Books.

You know you love a book when you own multiple editions
This is the kind of large, messy, imperfect, swing-for-the-fences type book you don't see too often in crime fiction. And I love it. It doesn't settle with being only one thing, it wants to be everything.

Smith crams the book's 600 oversized pages with description and digression, and he drags dozens of characters through multiple overlapping plots. I can't deny that The Death of the Detective could have used some editing: some portions drag, some characters never amount to much, and some scenes are repetitive. But Smith's ambition is so vast, and the tapestry he weaves so detailed and compelling, that I'm willing to forgive him the occasional lapse. 

Praise (taken from the Brash site and earlier editions of the book):

It’s the novelistic counterpart to Sandburg’s “Chicago”: 

The Death of the Detective  is one of my very favorite “lost” 20th-century American classics, an encyclopedic urban crime panorama that embraces both vernacular and highbrow dialects, tragedy, melodrama and farce, putting it in the very exclusive company of Thomas Berger, Thomas Pynchon, and The Wire. -- Jonathan Lethem

"Remarkable for both its ambition and its accomplishment, [it] reads as though it were written by a resurrected Charles Dickens, one chilled by a hundred years of graveyard brooding. . .every page is a pleasure to read." -- New York Times

"A masterpiece, one of the best books of its decade . . . raises Dicken's benign ghost to remind us again that we're all connected, all both innocent and guilty." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Mark Smith is a writer who, like Thomas Wolfe, has a gift: the magical ability to transmute familiar and trivial elements of live into images of distinction, rarity and fascination" -- Philadelphia Bulletin

"A deeply disturbing, intriguing, and involving novel that attempts something all-encompassing and damn well pulls it off...a meticulously well-layered, moment-by-moment account of madness, murder, the Mafia and guilt" -- Publisher Weekly

"As long and ambitious as Gravity's Rainbow, its underworld is as much Pluto's as Chicago's and the total experience is as a riveting as that of being lost with a guttering candle in a booming maze of sewers" -- The Observer (London)

"A brilliant and arresting novel which so far transcends the detective genre that inspired it as to stand in a category of its own." -- Arkansas Gazette

"The characterization and plot flows together, like rivulets that feed a coursing river, in such a way as to give the novel a momentum and magnetism of scope, and put it beyond the category of mere thriller." -- The News and Observer (Raliegh, NC)

"A novel of great skill and brooding intensity... a work of patient and unvarnished realism...exceptional." -- Newsday

"A piece of fiction that is at once terrifying and compassionate, brutal and brilliantly written, and overwhelming in its impact. It may just be the shortest 600 page book in contemporary American literature." -- Cleveland Press

"One of the most significant American novels in recent years...Bleak House is the only book I can think of that even faintly resembles. A novel I cannot get out of my mind." -- Roanoke News

"Precise, controlled, and often brillant." -- San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle

"In its sustained vitality, power and scale, it is unlke any other fiction I have read....A complex and unforgettable novel."Times Literary Supplement

"The imagination churns as in Dickens, Dostoievsky; bottomless. It’s a good novel. Insane, terrible, but very, very good" -- John Gardner

"Mark Smith's novel is beautiful, macabre, nauseating, enormous, frightening, and thoroughly fascinating" -- Book Review Digest

" throbs with powerfully rendered life...that you won't get away from for days after you've finished reading it." -- Book Week

"Powerful...chilling...brilliant." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Powerful...with this one enormous book, Mark Smith has emerged as one of the most ambitious, original, and thought-provoking novelists writing today...It is not only about Chicago, it is Chicago." -- Chicago Daily News

"Bizarre...ingenious...a tour de force...a bloodbath with the most bizarre trappings of the Gothic, a massacre of people and animals, a slaughter of innocents. A trip through an urban jungle wilderness." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer

"It's pages fairly explode...terrifying and compassionate, brutal and brilliantly written...An intricate, textured, nightmarish and unspeakably macabre study of guilt and destruction, told in terms of brilliant melodrama." -- Cleveland Press

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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