Wednesday, October 24, 2012

100 Books #100 - Ray Banks' WOLF TICKETS

So, it's official: I love Ray Banks.

From what I've learned of the backstory of the life of this novel, it's a bit of a wonder that I ever got to read it at all. And it would have been a crying shame of a brutal crime if I hadn't, because I do like a bit of crime fiction once in a while, and when I do, I like it to be spectacular.

Wolf Tickets is spectacular. Originally drafted as a collaboration between Ray Banks and Ken Bruen and featuring alternating chapters written from the point of view of two very bad friends*, the book is loaded with English and Irish lower class slang (one protagonist is one, and the other is, tadaa, the other) that, I guess, publishers thought would make it a too-difficult, too-challenging read for the average knuckle-dragging crime fiction fan? At any rate, it's only because Banks is stubborn and sure and teamed up with Blasted Heath Publishing to release it as an ebook.


I'd caution my readers that this one isn't for everyone, though. The slang does take a bit of parsing, for one thing -- though really, context clues are a big help if the rest of the writing is good, and here, the rest of the writing is good, sometimes even brilliant. For another, well, duh, it's crime fiction. And these two, Sean and Jimmy, are serious freaking low-lifes on the trail of another pair who did Sean wrong: his ex-girlfriend, Nora, and her hitman ex-ex-boyfriend, who have stolen all of the hidden money (and his favorite leather jacket) out of Sean's home and are off to steal the rest - as in 200 grand he's stashed somewhere around Newcastle, UK. Or at least, that he's claimed to have stashed. Or has he?

So it's a race, it's a chase, it's a spree, full of hard drinking and drug use, vandalism, arson, assault, battery, foul language, more drinking, and a lot of brutal language**. These are not nice people, and of the characters there is not a one whom ordinary readers will find conventionally sympathetic. They made me wince a lot, look away a lot -- but never for too long, because they're too fascinating, the lot of them.

I just wouldn't want to meet anyone like them in person, thanks. I take those kinds of thrills vicariously. Which is why people like Banks and the Blasted Heath guys get my money.

Oh, and caveat lector: if you're an ex-smoker or someone who's trying to quit, this novel might be even rougher going for you than for the rest of us. They smoke a lot. Like, even when their mouths are so cut up they can barely talk lot.

*And here Banks has attempted a difficult feat: writing a novel in two first-person (and unreliable) voices. I don't see a lot of writers even trying this, but maybe I'm just not reading the right show-offs (it could easily blow up in one's face, after all). My standard for this trick is, of course, Theodore Sturgeon's Godbody, in which all of the different characters' voices are so well-defined one could tell who was speaking even if one didn't know where in the book a passage was found. Banks doesn't achieve quite that level of greatness, but he comes closer to it than most do, which makes this pulpy bit of brutal crime fun that much more enjoyable.

**Sample: "How about a drink and a sub?" "How about a f*** and an off" Funny, but not for everyone.

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