Thursday, October 31, 2019

Electronic: "Brainquake" by Samuel Fuller

Electronic: Brainquake by Samuel Fuller, 1993 (French) and 2014 (English), downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.

Charles Ardai has a intro or afterword about this novel and how it came to Hard Case Crime. Fuller wrote regularly during his lifetime and published this when living in France. Someone found the English original and Ardai published it.

The story of Samuel Fuller as an experienced Hollywood director leaving a poor job market in California and living in France is more interesting than the novel itself. The book keeps moving along and I mostly enjoyed it but the concept is a bit goofy and, in retrospect, the whole damn story went all over.

Set in the early '90s and starting out in NYC where Paul Page is a bagman for the mob and is a full-time cypher. That is how he is described, as a cypher. He has no facial expression and can barely speak. From that point there is plenty of exposition about how bagman must be inscrutable and faceless. They are not allowed any other jobs, no booze, no pills, no romantic relationships. The bagmen have a garage of vehicles and disguises and courier millions of dollars to a final destination.

Paul has mental and behavioral issues of some sort. Issues which are never adequately explained by Fuller and include his "brainquakes". The brainquakes are a kind of seizure that includes vivid visual hallucinations that Paul reacts against. These hallucinations are violent and Paul violently reacts to defend himself or imagined others. No doctors have found a cure or treatment for Paul and his condition will likely be fatal. Basically, Fuller's concept of a brainquake is a load of horseshit.

Anyhoo. The highly reclusive Paul has no friends or family and has speech difficulties as well. But, he still falls hard for a 20-year-old he calls Pretty Face (or something equally inane) he sees walking in Central Park. After a bit of stalking Paul is sitting on a park bench as Pretty Face is pushing her newborn's stroller and walking with a guy who suddenly drops dead of a gunshot. Fuller then proceeds to complicate everything. You see there was a gun and bomb hidden under the infant and set to go off when the boy pulled his favorite toy hanging from a mobile. The police show up, a crowd forms, Pretty Face is in a tizzy.

If the complication of a gun, bomb, elaborate mechanism to fire the gun, and a pressure plate to set off the bomb wasn't enough there is the secret boyfriend who wants Pretty Face for himself. He set-up the entire weird-ass murder scheme and figures to get some dough as well. Never mind the killer's brother getting involved.  And then Paul sending Pretty a daily dose of flowers and poems. And Paul's Boss of Bagmen and her deaf adult daughter with their own too-long back story. And that other bagmen getting robbed and killed. And the mob wants to find the mole working with the robbers. And the famous NYPD Detective investigating the baby carriage case. And so on. And so forth. And other muddied waters.

Then, after we get through all these NYC shenanigans - which should have just been the damn novel on it's own - Paul and Pretty Face and Pretty's infant fly to France and are pursued by a Mob hitman and Pretty's secret boyfriend. Along the way Paul has new brainquakes and fears that every next quake will kill him. Pretty is stringing Paul along while planning to kill him. Blah, blah, blah.

Everything sorta makes sense if you're like me and willing to suspend A LOT of disbelief. And, as I wrote above, the story does keep moving along. Too bad Fuller seems to have jammed two novels together with NYC Crime Story and Paris on the Lam with Femme Fatale dovetailed together.

Once in France I thought the story got more interesting. Try it if you like, but only if you have my same low standards.

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