Sunday, February 19, 2012

REVIEW: Dying Memories by Dave Zeltserman

Dying Memories is coming alive for noir great, Zeltserman

Boston writer Dave Zeltserman might be considered one of the best noir authors to have emerged on the scene in the past twenty years, but only recently has this Shamus award winning author begun achieving bestselling status through such novels as Bad Memories and Outsourced. He’s even got not just one movie based upon his books heading into production, but two.  Yup, that’s right two. How many writers out there, even the perpetually bestselling ones, can boast that achievement? And not to get all Hollywood Reporter-like on you guys, but word up is that a major movie star is in line to direct one of these sure to be screen gems.

Mr. Z’s newest offering, Dying Memories, might also be worthy of the big screen. It will certainly be a bestseller. It’s a story that has appeal not to just noir and crime fans, but also to thriller fans the world over.  “Thriller” being the key common, there’s-something-here-for-everyone,  denominator here. The novel is about a young Boston newspaper reporter by the name Bill Conway who has, by no fault of his own making, gotten himself into a heap of trouble. The worst kind of trouble possible. He’s been accused of murdering an ex-girlfriend and her fiancĂ©. But not only does he retain no recollection of the event, he swears he’s become embroiled in a conspiracy that involves a major drug company, the police, and maybe even the U.S. government. And the crime reporter has the proof and the front-page cover story to prove it.

Sound like a plot worthy of The X-Files?
Maybe, but this book is a whole lot more than pile-driving plot. It is a study in fear and paranoia. It also bears a strikingly literary form and tone. 

I’ve read Dave Zeltserman’s “man out of prison” series and since then have become hooked on a writer whom I believe is a contemporary master of the noir genre. I don’t give that accolade out lightly since I’m still learning the craft myself. In fact, I give the title “master” only to the likes of a few: Charlie Huston, Boston Terran, Michael Connelly, Don Winslow and a maybe a handful of others among them. But I’ll say it again, the Boston native’s new offering  is more than just noir. It’s psychological suspense thriller in its purist paranoid Hitchcockian form. Another rave I’m not passing on lightly.   

The novel, which begins with a cold blooded murder that occurs in plain daylight in a popular Boston common, seems to innocently (if you’ll excuse the pun) start off as a police procedural, a form I most definitely would expect Zeltserman to attack with his usual skills. But quickly enough it becomes apparent that this novel is more than that as memory flashbacks to Conway’s troubled and abusive childhood become mixed with new memories created in real-time. Memories that might in fact be manufactured by some evil goons, one of whom in particular has pink skin and beady little eyes. The goons wear black, wield hypodermic needles and transport themselves in a white unmarked van.  In pure noir tradition, there’s also a beautiful woman involved who manages to attract the newspaper man into her life and bed. And you-guessed-it, he’s only just met her.

Dying Memories is so tight and tension-filled it just might qualify as “The-Book-to-Keep-You-Up-All-Night of the Week.” One thing is for sure, it will keep you guessing until the very end. Just as importantly (and this is where all Zeltserman fans luck out), it also represents a new thriller-based path the noir novelist is taking with his writing. No doubt my next review will be singing the praises of Dave Zeltserman, master of the psychological suspense thriller.

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