Sunday, December 17, 2006

Just Read: "American Skin" by Ken Bruen

Just Read: American Skin by Ken Bruen, 2006, 1932112472.

I reserved this one after doing an author search for Bruen.

I recently read some definition of noir that fits this book: bad people doing bad things to other bad people. Not so much because the book fits that definition but because the main character consciouscly puts himself into the genre.

Stephen Blake, the main character here, is conscious of his own noir activities and compares them against standard noir cliches and themes. But, American is not so much about the bank robbery, double crosses, shootings, deceptions and betrayals that make up the plot. It's not a nod-and-a-wink having fun with the genre. American is more of a mix of the noir novel and the Irish novel, or the Irish novel and the American noir novel. The kind of Irish novel with the IRA, the Provisional IRA, alcoholism, the seemingly inherent depression of the people, Brit vs. Paddy, with heaping helpings of sorrow and regret.

Blake is in the U.S. after a bloody bank robbery in Ireland. His girlfriend, a banker, is back in Ireland laudering the money and due to meet him in Tucson. The reader follows Blake from New York to Vegas to Tucson with multiple flashbacks telling about him, his lifelong friend Tommy, his girlfriend, and Irish sorrow/sadness/despair/anger/blah/blah/blah..

Alongside all the Irish stuff, Bruen mixes in a couple sociopaths for good measure, and that's where it gets an American-Irish twist. Bruen writes a fair amount about the differences between the way Irish and Americans act and think. How Blake is coming to the US and happily turning his back on Ireland and creating an American accent. The American sociopaths in New York and Arizona are different than the sad and angry Irish. Bruen sets each character up according to geography.

I'm overanalyzing the novel. I liked the book. Bruen is a very good writer.

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