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By Michael Kentby on 03-26-14
Classic Pulp Fiction...with a wink and a nudge.
Would you consider the audio edition of Solomon's Vineyard to be better than the print version?
Yes. The book is very "film noir", so it's fun to hear that stylized tone in the narrator's voice. You don't get that from reading a book like this, only from listening to it or watching movies like "The Maltese Falcon". The narrator did a good job capturing the film noir style, which made it more enjoyable than reading it.
Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?
Yes. As the author says in the foreward , "This is a wild one. Maybe the wildest yet. It's got everything in it...". And it's true! Gangsters, a bootleg-running religious cult and ladies of the night. Kidnapping, murder and gun fights. Corruption, S&M and human sacrifice. I think the author's intent was to get every cliche of the Pulp Fiction genre in the book, without appearing cliche. For example, during Prohibition, they start to play craps in the back room or a speakeasy, with the corrupt police chief a player among others, and Karl makes a big deal out of calling the house out of their crooked game with rigged dice, just to impress the local redhead Ginger he just me and is trying to make, Then the local gangster, who is Ginger's boyfriend comes in and bitch slaps Karl and humiliates him in front of Ginger. The whole thing is so trite, it's funny when you think about it. But it reads like a drama, it doesn't make you roll your eyes. In fact It's great fun to see how this out of town Private Investigator is going to solve all the crimes and come out clean. It kept me on the edge of my seat as all the subplots converged in a dramatic finale that showed our man, Karl Craven, was the smartest man in the room all along.
Which character – as performed by Kevin Kraft – was your favorite?
Karl Craven (and all the many believable female voices Kraft created for Karl's numerous amorous encounters.) Karl was at once brave and foolish, both masculine and ridiculous. A loner and a self-proclaimed ladies man, he struggles with eating to much, and seems almost oblivious about his massive weight ("The scale said 240. That was about 20 pounds too much"). Full of street smarts, his own common sense sometimes seems ridiculous. For example, when a girl tells Karl that he is tough, Karl says "that's cause I was in the army". LOL. An edgy man with a honest conscience, he is still a product of his time (and perhaps his profession) and is slightly racist, as when he refers to the hotel porter as a "negro" or as he talks about his recently murdered partner: "Oke Johnson was the smartest Sweede I knew." And then shortly after, true to his contradictory style, he calls him a "dumb Sweede"! Karl is so infatuated with himself and what he does that he reads G-man comic books. And he hates the goody-goody Boy Scout type Agents, but loves the "wonderful" G man who's always rescuing his girl from the gangsters. Karl is like a perpetual adolescent. He says almost forgivingly forthright about his feelings, like "I decided I would kill him when I got through with the job. That made me feel better. " The first time he deals with the local cops he calls them "dumb cops", and when he beats at the salesman who is hitting on a girl in the bar he says "I hate salesman. And cops."
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
I was probably more scared than "moved" in this book. The ending and rescue from the human sacrifice of the religious cult was very exciting. I was full of tension and suspense when the gangsters attack the speakeasy by rolling a flaming car into the speakeasy full of trapped people. This is not an "emotional" book, so I guess the closes thing to being "moved" was being disturbed, as when an innocent girl is beaten to death for "talking" about the corruption.
Any additional comments?
The author, Jonathan Latimer, is a noteworthy Hollywood Screenwriter and crime novelist (google him) who also ghost wrote for those blacklisted during the McCarthy era as well as for the Perry Mason TV shows. In "Solomon's Vineyard", Latimer strikes a very good balance between writing a darn good pulp fiction crime novel with commenting on the genre itself without passing over into parody. The reader (listener) really has to pay attention to catch the subtle jibes the book makes at itself and it's style. For example, I think it's funny that everyone of that era is presumed to know how to play craps. Ginger, a 21-year-old girl at best from the mid-west, seems to know all about how to play craps. And Karl knows how to spot rigged dice and makes a big display out of it. The gangster in this book, Pug Banta, is described as having long arms, short legs and club foot, but has Ginger as his girl, one of the prettiest girls in town. I mean, a club foot? It's practically comical! But never for a second does Latimer denigrate the genre with his insightful pokes.