No More Heroes by Ray Banks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This month I have been reading works by some of the greatest names in literature (Joyce, Mann, Tolstoy, Coetzee, Barth), so it is time to read, for a change, some "lower-level stuff" - mysteries, thrillers, procedurals, etc. I have just finished my fourth Ray Banks' novel, "No More Heroes". (My reviews of previous three books are here, here, and here). Alas, I find "No More Heroes" the weakest of the bunch.
The plot takes place in Manchester, UK. Callum (Cal) Innes, an ex-convict and an ex-PI, is now working for a powerful and nasty landlord who specializes in renting slummy lodgings to students and immigrants. Cal and Daft Frank, who is a slow thinker but a good fighter, work as enforcers for the landlord, specializing in evictions. Paolo, a decent fellow and Cal's previous boss, wants to hire him back, but Cal agrees to do one more job for the landlord. This time the job involves detecting.
There is a lot of violence, blood, and pain in the novel. Some critics claim that Mr. Banks' other novels belong to the "noir" genre. Well, this one certainly does not. The book is almost comically inept in its message. It may be well-intentioned, but it fails to deliver. The bad guys are formulaic caricatures: greedy landlords, neo-Nazis, racists of various forms. It feels so good, so righteous to fight against them (on the positive side, I applaud the author for not putting a single pedophile in the plot). It reminds me a little of John Shannon's "creative trajectory". Mr. Shannon, a talented author of very good California detective stories, full of astute social observations, magical moments, and whimsy, has recently churned horrid books, based on populist themes, and full of politically correct slime.
Cal Innes constantly drinks, smokes, and pops codeine and other prescription drugs (he greatly suffers because of a past back injury), but swallowing several handfuls of pills daily while heavily drinking does stretch my limits of believability. Mr. Banks' writing is on a bit lower level than in his previous works; for instance, Cal's long conversation with Karyn does not sound realistic. Despite quite an interesting ending, "No More Heroes" is at best a mediocre thriller, and I am not comparing the novel with works of Joyce, Tolstoy or Coetzee, but with other thrillers I have read.
One and three-quarter stars.
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