Friday, April 16, 2010

Craig Johnson reviews Charlie Huston

Well, I don't know about you all, but I'm fairly whooped. So, Craig Johnson has been ever so kind to take over the reigns here at the blog. Never mind that he's been traipsing all over France and West Virginia, he still has tons of energy! Take it away Craig!

If someone would've told this cowboy that the book I would choose to review on Jen's blog would be one about a slacker, trauma clean-up tech in Los Angeles, I probably would've laughed up my sleeve. It's true, though. The best book I read all last year was Charlie Huston's THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH.

I know I'm stretching the limitations by including a trauma-tech in with all the cops, PI's and detectives - but it's a dirty job and somebody's got to do it. For the uninitiated, trauma-techs are the guys that go in after the deeds are done and the POLICE - DO NOT CROSS tape is taken down. They're the ones who pluck the skull splinters from the acoustic tile in cheesy motel rooms after successful suicides or sponge down gas station floors after gang-banger drive-bys.

Our protagonist, Web, is a young guy a little down on his luck, his options are limited, and the kindness of friends and family is running out. He takes a job with Clean Team where he meets the daughter of a deceased client and is lured into a situation beyond his means - both physically and emotionally.

I could talk about the razor-edge dialogue, the gritty, pitch-perfect violence, or the black humor that's so funny you're likely to choke, but for the purposes of this review I think I'll talk about the environs of Huston's book.

In the last few years I've been to Los Angeles a lot, and I always go back to trumpet player extraordinaire Jack Sheldon's phrase, "Earthquakes, rattlesnakes, milkshakes and heartbreaks - what's not to love?" LA is a strange town of tawdry tinsel and streaming asphalt; a place where dreams arrive every day and drain onto the stainless steel morgue trays every night. Who better to stand witness to all the mayhem than the quicker cleaner-upper, Webster Fillmore Goodhue?

Huston snags every detail, whether it's Chez Jay's, where I actually valet parked a truck with a friend, passed out in the bed, or the Harbor Freeway where I had a 9mm pointed at me. There's a sadness and a longing to the book that captures the absurdity and elusiveness of dreams. It's city of angels, and sometimes angels fall.

You might be put-off initially by the dashes that replace quotation marks but give yourself a chance and read this book. The tired old phrase of not-being-able-to-put-the-book-down was invented for Charlie Huston's THE MYSTIC ART OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH.

--Craig Johnson

Craig gave me this little snippet to say about him: "Craig Johnson is the author of Viking/Penguin's Walt Longmire series, THE COLD DISH, DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY, KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED, ANOTHER MAN'S MOCCASINS, THE DARK HORSE, and the upcoming JUNKYARD DOGS."

That doesn't say near enough about the man who tolerated me following him around his tour last year, signed all the books I put in front of him, greeted me with a fantastic hug at Bouchercon and never...I mean never failed to make me laugh. He'll also pull at your heart strings if you're reading his books. It is my honor to have him here today on the blog, and you can bet your bottom dollar that you'll be hearing about JUNKYARD DOGS just as soon as I get my grimy paws on a copy! You can find out more about Craig and the Sheriff Walt Longmire series on his website.

Thanks for being a part of Detectives Around the World, Craig!

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Naomi Johnson April 16, 2010 at 7:28 AM  

Craig read us a bit of Junkyard Dogs, and I thought I might have to point a 9mm at him myself, to get that copy of the book away from him. But I didn't have a 9mm and he said it was his mom's copy. She looked like a nice lady, so I let it ride.

Jen: what a ride this week has been. Fun? Oh, yeah. Would I have ever pestered Earl Emerson for an interview without this event? I'm sure I wouldn't, so I can thank you for me finding the courage to do that.

le0pard13 April 16, 2010 at 12:58 PM  

What a way to close out the work week! A great book review by Mr. Johnson, and one that I have in my audiobook queue for this year, too. Ken Bruen and Craig Johnson all in the same glorious week of Detectives Around the World?!? Way to go, Jen! Thanks very much for this.

Susan Shea April 16, 2010 at 1:46 PM  

Huston's book got another shout out today, from Neil Nyren, editor of Penguin, guest blogging on Murderati. Think I have to add the book to my TBR pile, which is threatening to collapse at this point.

Christine April 16, 2010 at 3:36 PM  

So now I have recommendations for this book from both my husband and Craig Johnson. Is it going onto my TBR pile? DUH! ;)

Having Craig guest blog was just the cherry-on-top of a fabulous week! (I'm still not caught up on all the blogs, by the by.) Congratulations, Jen!

Kay April 16, 2010 at 3:43 PM  

The Charlie Huston book sound great. I'll definitely be looking it up.

And...I have kept one Walt Longmire book held back - Dark Horse - because I couldn't bear to be caught up. Guess I can take it out and put it in the TBR pile because Junkyard Dogs is coming!! Yea!!!!

Jen-Girls Gone Reading April 16, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

I have already picked this book up and have it on my I HAVE to read it quickly. Can't wait.

Pop Culture Nerd April 16, 2010 at 8:45 PM  

I LOVE Charlie Huston! Been shoving his books in people's faces, throwing them on people's front lawns, stuffing them down their pants without their permission (ask le0pard13). So glad Mr. Johnson will entice you all to read him now. After you're done with this, check out Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy, too.

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