Monday, December 30, 2013
Review of Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride (New Pulp Press, 2012)
In Frank Sinatra in a Blender, Matthew McBride takes a typical PI story and max everything up to eleven -- the hardboiled style, the excessive drug-taking, the violence and mayhem. Nick Valentine used to be a decent cop, but is now a man living on the edge, bedding down in his office which he shares with Frank Sinatra, his Yorkshire Terrier, who can’t function without excessive quantities of alcohol or drugs, travels round with a small armoury, and is familiar with the underbelly of St Louis. He doesn’t solve cases with subtlety or in ways that are always legal, and he’s quite happy to work with both cops and criminals. He’s the kind of character that appeals to my baser tastes in crime fiction, and the caper plot and all show and no tell style of storytelling meant that Frank Sinatra in a Blender should have pushed all my buttons. However, whilst the tale does have its merits as an escapist, excessive, fast-moving story, I never fully connected with either Valentine or the yarn. In part, I think this is because the tale is told through the first-person voice of Valentine which curiously never modulates despite excessive drug-taking. Moreover, the prose is workmanlike, the characterization is largely skin deep, and the plot is premised on the criminals and cops being complete idiots and has a number of plot devices that felt a little too clunky. Given the style and alcohol-fuelled state of the characters, the story is also thin on humour beyond parody, such as wisecracks and sarcasm. The result is a fast paced, action-packed tale, but one that didn’t quite live up to its promise. Nevertheless, it was for the most part an entertaining read.