Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Finished: "Hop Alley" by Scott Phillips

Finished: Hop Alley by Scott Phillips, 2014, 9781619023079.

Bill Ogden in 1874.  He's running a photographic studio in Denver after leaving his girlfriend Maggie in Greeley, CO.  Ogden has been living under a pseudonym since killing Maggie's husband in KS.  Ogden is a bit lonely and going day-by-day with weekly visits to a mistress in Golden.  Problems occur.  Ogden deals with those problems and breaks a tooth.

Another troublesome Ogden novel by Scott Phillips. "Troublesome?" you respond.  Yes.  Here is why:
1. Scott Phillips is, by all accounts, human.  Therefore, Scott Phillips is unable to produce enough novels to fulfill my demands. 
1.a. Whether Scott Phillips gives a damn about my needs is irrelevant. 
1.b.  It's always a bummer that a novel of 182 pages takes so much longer to write, edit, publish and distribute than the handful of hours needed to read it.  I am a slow reader. 
1.c. I look forward to Phillips's work.  I was lucky to run across a review in the NYT Book Review for this one, I usually skip reading the Review and put it right on the shelf.
2.  Bill Ogden is a tough nut to crack. 
2.a. Ogden is incredibly self-interested.  When in Kansas he left his wife, children, and farm to move into town.  He screwed around with married woman Maggie, killed her husband, then fled Cottonwood with her.  He moved to Greeley, CO to satisfy Maggie but got bored and left.  He's running another photographic studio in Denver and sharing a mistress with a local newspaper publisher. He holds grudges and can be a amoral rat.
2.b. Alternately, Ogden can be helpful and brave.  I recall he stood up for a beaten kid in San Francisco.  Ogden does not like his teenaged assistant in Denver but helps him out when the kid is beaten by his father.  (If the assistance were female Ogden would just have soon screwed her.)  He risks his life and safety during a riot to save a Chinaman who is hanging by a street lamp.  His housekeeper is his assistant's aunt and when Ogden discovers the housekeeper murdered her violent brother-in-law he does not turn her over to the police.

Other Comments:
1. Scott does a great job with self-absorbed characters.  Fellas who are usually rational but whose anger can boil up into fisticuffs.  Guys that are willing to take advantage of other people, lie to women for sex, and steal or con.  Those guys who are still able to help out a pal or feel guilt.
2. Ogden will pick up and move without much trouble.  His concerns are usually limited liquidating his belongings before departure.  He does not hold onto physical or emotional attachments.  Yet, he often thinks of
3. I did not go to Wichita during this year's KS vacation.  Closest we got was the salt mine museum in Hutchinson.  Seen that one Phillips?  It's a fun trip.
4.  Phillips does not dive into time period details but I sure to do get a feel for the setting when I read his stuff.  He'll talk about sex, toilets, and money.  Those little, daily details tell a lot about how people lived and how human needs and actions have not changed from then to now.
5. I just read a comment that "this does not feel like a complete story."  I disagree.  I think of this as a part of a memoir, or a long story spoken aloud.  Ogden is reminiscing of his life while telling an interesting tale of a couple Denver murders.  Since Ogden was involved in both killings his life is part of the story.