George Stroud is a hard-drinking, tough-talking, none-too-scrupulous writer for a New York media conglomerate that bears a striking resemblance to Time, Inc. in the heyday of Henry Luce. One day, before heading home to his wife in the suburbs, Stroud has a drink with Pauline, the beautiful girlfriend of his boss, Earl Janoth. Things happen. The next day, Stroud escorts Pauline home, leaving her off at the corner just as Janoth returns from a trip. The day after that, Pauline is found murdered in her apartment.
Janoth knows there was one witness to his entry into Pauline's apartment on the night of the murder; he knows that man must have been the man Pauline was with before he got back; but he doesn't know who he was. Janoth badly wants to get his hands on that man, and he picks one of his most trusted employees to track him down: George Stroud. Who else?
How does a man escape from himself? No book has ever dramatized that question to more perfect effect than The Big Clock, a masterpiece of American noir.
100 Must-Read Thrillers (International Thriller Writers)
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A fun stylish imperfect noir
This is an enjoyable listen. Kenneth Fearing, who was a fine poet (and a drunk and a marxist) turns out to have had an excellent touch with fiction. The pleasures here are in voice and attitude as well as in the various portraits, some more detailed than others, of various mid-century new yorkers -- chain-smoking drunk-at-midday spouse-cheating 50s noir new yorkers. The writing is better than the story deserves. It's a slow developing murder story that leaves our protagonist in what should be a terrible bind -- but it lacks any suspense -- and the psychology behind the characters and situation becomes strained as well. The story ultimately resolves rather abruptly and without any punch.
But the narrative faults, which are not apparent until at least 2/3rds of the way, don't kill the book. It's worth a listen. The main character, George Stroud -- jaded, sardonic, self-contained -- is a very dry martini in human form. He's good company on an overcast day. Joe Barrets voice seemed too raspy to me at first, but he seemed to have a very good grasp of the characters, particularly Stroud, and brought them effectively to life. His performance grew on me steadily throughout the book.
- Either C, or D.
A truly brilliant story.
- Marc Moss