Monday, September 1, 2014

Queenpin by Megan Abbott

"Noir is all about drives," says Megan Abbott, author of Queenpin.  "Drives we have that we can't control."
The unnamed protagonist of Queenpin has drives all right. A blue collar Catholic girl, keeping the books in the Tee Hee club, in an unnamed burg along a river–

 "I was ready for more. I wanted more," she says in the first chapter. 

She hitches her wagon to Gloria Denton, a star, a queenpin, and moves money around for the mob while she learns from her ruthless boss. But another drive she has puts her in the sack with a gambler, loser and con men, and our girl double crosses Gloria, hoping to help her young man get off the hook with some gamblers.  Gloria takes violent revenge on the boy friend, saying, "Don't worry," says Gloria. "We'll find someone else for you to fuck."
The plot unfolds with the clarity of Raymond Chandler, but it's clear enough for the reader to understand there's trouble.  And that's really all you have to know.  It's a hard-boiled story, about a couple hard-boiled dames who are unrelenting in their drives and merciless.
The strength of the book is the prose, which rat-a-tats along with an economy reminiscent of James M. Cain, or of Albert Camus. It left me with the impression that the story moved not from plot point to plot point, but from emotion to emotion.  Good writing, and the kind of approach I can learn from.

It's brief--less than 200 pages--and it doesn't ask much of the reader. Just hang on for the ride.
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