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May 13, 2003
About the Elliot Paul No relation to "The Red
book, "The Black and the Black", I'm sure.
and the Red" (1956).
This is another entry in the
Homer Evans series that
includes such classics as
"Murder on the Left Bank" and
"The Mysterious Mickey Finn"...
One gets the sense
that he was trying
to keep up with
Hjalmer shot for
shot while writing Paul has an odd way of
this one. repetitiously bringing
up funny hats again and
For example, there's again:
this bit where he's
talking to Kid "so says Scott Jordan,
Unamuno over the freak who can
walkie-talkie, so detect pipssisewa, but
they use theatrical knows not of vino..."
script style in a
bold typeface. These become an almost
Then later on, he's
hanging around It's reminiscent
talking to Miriam of fairy tales,
and for no reason which are Actually, it's
the narration shifts after-all reminiscent of
into the same style. ostensibly Homer...
the young and FORBIDDEN_PLANET
Throughout the book slow on the
the narrator seems uptake.
to be using a very 13CLOCKS
intellectual tone, (As opposed to
as though it's "best-sellers"
narrated by Homer which are for
Evans himself, a the old and
more flowery Homer slow...)
about himself in the
What's even odder is when
different random characters
suddenly start speaking this
way also, including random
In one bit, we have a
sand-rat prospector begin
discoursing learnedly about
the expected density of
rattle-snakes in Nevada, in
much the way you would
expect Evans to do, except
that he's using a heavy sand
rat accent to do it in.
How does Homer Evans talk?
He's supposed to be a cosmopolitan
intellectual, a gastronomic expert,
a genius-level detective.
He's inclined to lecture a bit,
in a discursive way, with a "Ossip's disregard for rules or
calm, indolent, philosophical principles is Ossip's major
attitude. fault, his Achilles heel," Homer
said. "Anarchists have many
HIPSTERISM more accidents than their
statistical share." p. 214
The narrative Voice:
"The Rosy-Fingered Dawn Vies with Neon Signs":
"When the goddess Aurora, harbinger of light
and easy transition to activity of day-faring
beasts and the less fortunate of men, took
her initial peep over ancient foothills and Clear reference
noticed Las Vegas, Nevada, one fair Friday in to (satire of?)
November, A.D. 1954, she was more pleased Homer, if not
than indignant. True, the neons were blazing Homer Evans...
in most of the hues and colors God overlooked
in His primitive spectrum. Gamblers,
prospectors, tourists, Indians, hoods,
wheels, business magnates, show people, hotel
folk, beauties, bums and a sprinkling of
citizens (and most of those asleep in
ordinary beds) but enough to supply the weird
ensemble with officials, clerks, services,
articles and a civic background, were tooting
and convoluting in and around de-luxe palaces
of chance and proletarian hangouts for the
lower brackets. So in those parts, Aurora,
with her tinted clouds, her scented hush and
stillness, her subtle crescendo of natural
light, which elsewhere served to warn people,
fauna and flora of an impending day, for
better or for worse, had quite another
function. Dawn, in short, was but a warning
signal, scarcely noticed by the losers and
not much more by the winners, or those who
were even, on dead center for the moment."
There we go, right from the outset,
and it only barely lets up throughout.
This is evidently a light-weight,
frivolous comedy, and one might ask
why I can read it at all, because
I often hate this kind of thing.
In the world of "The Black and the Red",
our heroes constantly wink at death.
They barely blink at a neat bullet hole
appearing in a windshield.
Evans doesn't panic when a friend is taken
hostage, and reacts so calmly that his other
friends begin to wonder what's wrong with
him (but it turns out that All Is Under Control).
Tragedy is supposedly uplifting
and Comedy is deflating, but
that is not the experience of
reading a book like this.
The sense that nothing matters
much can be paralyzing ("Oh, why
bother?"), but it can also be
What are you worried about?
Might as well dive into the fray.
Lets get some action around here.
Could there be a serious
thrust underneath the
fiction? But it
running away. Another way I've said this:
It can't be said to be I intensely dislike
realistic, but that the philosophy of
doesn't mean that it's "escape fiction":
not addressing something it's very clear to
real... it projects an me that fiction (no
attitude toward life. matter how
"Escape" doesn't "light-weight") is
really describe about approaches to
it. "Engagement" life, not running
is closer. away from it.
"From such unliterary oaks, acorns of romance
bud, develop and, devil take the arrangement,
eventually drop, if the squirrels do not get
"Since Hjalmar got started first, let us first
spy on him in that miraculous way our Father
in Heaven has granted us, I mean, through the
gift of a writer to be omnipresent,
omniscient and invisible, and that of the
reader, if he is worthy enough, to catch the
drift of prose, and supply the predicate of
appreciation to the writer's subject of
inspiration. None of this is to be taken
lightly, if at all."
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