Friday, October 3, 2014

Vultures on a High Wire

AUTHOR of The Phantom Lover and other Thrilling Tales of Thailand Jim Algie was kind enough (or led astray enough)  to write some words about The White Flamingo, third in the Joe Dylan series. 

Jim Algie is also the man behind Bizarre Thailand - Tales of Crime, Sex and Black Magic. 

Jim has had a career in subterranean rock circles as a musician, cable TV host, campus radio DJ, roadie, soundman and punk critic. Jim Algie has lived in Barcelona, Berlin and Casablanca before relocating to Bangkok in 1992. His features and stories have been published around the world in publications such as the International Herald Tribune and his short fiction has been included in anthologies, like the Bram Stoker-winning "Extremes 2: Fantasy and Horror from the Ends of the Earth." Several of his stories have picked up prizes.

He has also worked as a security guard at an insane asylum. 
Which is awesome.

I hand you over to Jim.


I tend to look at the genre fiction of crime and horror not through the telescopic lens of the Ivory Tower critics and academics, but as the blood brothers of such musical genres as rock and punk. The structures and riffs may seem easy enough, but it’s in those individual flourishes, and especially in the guts, the raw power and the spirit, that enables the writer or musician to make their mark and add their own signature style.

As an underground rocker himself, James Newman understands that similarity and leaves plenty of original fingerprints all over this hardboiled mystery. Set in Fun City, which is located somewhere between Pattaya and William Burroughs’ Interzone, the plot orbits around the killing and gutting of a prostitute on a pool table.

Enter Joe Dylan, the private detective with an opiated orangutan on his back and a thirst for justice that outstrips any cash incentives.

Newman’s specialty is hard-hitting, brass-knuckles prose that works well in the crime fiction genre.

“The human waste dripped down to a reservoir of ruin and relief down the city drains where monitor lizards and awful pythons dwelt among the shite, tampons, used condoms: the excesses of Fun City, its center, its soul: a dreamless sludge of spent desire.”

The author also excels in succinct, smartly written characterizations. Of one bargirl he writes:

“She moved with the grace of an animal, barefoot in the jungle, wary of snakes and centipedes, these were her movements, rather than those of a sophisticated woman in the city.”

Such elements contribute some classical touches to what is a raw punk rock symphony full of death-knells and serrated melodies that go straight for the jugular.

At times I was thinking that, even by the standards of noir, this is a nihilistic and misanthropic book, but that’s not a fair reading. Newman finds a little light, and a lot of pathos, in the darkest places.

“The sound of music from an open-air karaoke joint; the sound of a woman’s voice being slowly strangled by the hopelessness of love in the big city.”

Into the scrum of suspects comes the titular White Flamingo, a former model with a penchant for marrying into money and seducing her way into adultery, as well as her son, whose proclivity for violent pornography makes him an early target and easy scapegoat in the police investigation.

I am always weary about giving away too many dramatic twists in a plot-propelled novel like this. Let’s just say that the author’s status as a “Ripperologist” (“Saucy Jack” also makes an appearance in Newman’s recent horror novella, “Itchy Park,” which is equally as compelling and grisly as this tale) makes for a ripping read.



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