Two Great Reads

While I was in El Paso, I read two books… Richard Vaughan’s  HAWKE and Dominic Stansberry’s THE CONFESSION. I like them both…they were throwbacks, in a good way, to books of another era.

HAWKE is a formula western with a decidedly unformulatic hero… a world-class concert pianist and a veteran Confederate soldier who now roams aimlessly, a haunted lost soul, scraping together money here and there playing piano in saloons.  He’s quick with a gun and often finds himself in middle of trouble.  It was the perfect airplane read… I didn’t even notice the terrible turbulence that kept the waitresses buckled into their seats and the passengers parched from lack of beverage service. Vaughan has won the Spur Award before… I can see him snagging another one for this fine example of the modern western.

THE CONFESSION is a dark, tawdry, noir tale that harkens back… intentionally so… to the great Gold Medal paperbacks of the 50s and 60s. Stansberry perfectly captures the forboding, the sensuality, the violence, and the wickedness of the best of those tales… and yet, it feels contemporary and hip at the same time. The story is told from the first-person point-of-view of Jake Danser, a forensic psychologist who might be a sexual predator and a serial killer… or not. Even he’s not entirely sure. Stansberry’s prose is confident and slick, his eye for detail sharp and surprising. The book has been nominated for an Edgar and I can see why. It’s a damn good book. I’m eager now to read Stansberry’s new one, CHASING THE DRAGON.

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