Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review : Ian Truman - Tales of Lust, Hate & Despair (2012)


Order TALES OF LUST, HATE & DESPAIR here

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Useless fucking words.

I know Ian. He is the only writer in Montreal I know doing something even remotely similar to me, so we met a few times, drank coffee together. I even story-edited his upcoming novel A TEENAGE SUICIDE. So my point of view might be a little warped here. If you've never heard of him or his first two releases THE FACTORY LINE and TALES OF LUST, HATE & DESPAIR, you're not that out of it. Since graduating from Concordia University in creative writing, Truman has been busting his chops and making the most out of the ePublishing landscape. TALES OF LUST, HATE & DESPAIR is raw around the edges, yet is the manifestation of a singular talent. Get in the bandwagon before the others.

Samuel Lee has been a free man for three days in eighteen years. Fresh out of the Cowansville penitentiary where he served a sentence for attacking (rather beautifully) a cop, he falls back into his old life like a dog in a bowling alley. Everybody has moved on. Mikey has become a ventilation systems salesman, Matty has dug himself a little deeper into the hole he was in and Alice, his sweet, beloved Alice has shacked up with a biker, to afford a better life for their daughter Melody. Alienated and angry at everything, Sam gradually abandons hops and develops this infatuating idea : settle the score with his baby's mother.

If you've read Salinger, the parallels with CATCHER IN THE RYE are inevitable. In this case, it's a good thing. Think of TALES OF LUST, HATE & DESPAIR as a contemporary, punk rock retelling of Salinger's classic. Throughout the novel, he revisits his old friends and old neighborhoods, to find his ideals corrupted by the weight of adulthood, his friends turned into normal people. Truman tackles alienation from a different perspective, giving it a tangible shape and a name. He is never angry for the sake of being angry, he is mortified at the sight of a society that doesn't want him. He has always been a marginal, but since leaving prison, he has become an undesirable.

"What was her name?" she asked.

"Who?"

"The lady who turned you into a silent man. There's more to the job than sex, you know? Figuring people out is something you learn pretty quickly. I know that stare of yours," she ran the back of her finger softly on my temple. "That is the work of a woman."

As you can see, Truman has an incredible ear for dialogue. His fiction is at his best when people talk. About maybe ten, fifteen percent of TALES OF LUST, HATE & DESPAIR is made out of people, reminding old stories together and Truman always has the one, peculiar detail that makes a story come alive. I laughed out loud once or twice even. His characterization on the other hand, is sometimes stuck in overdrive. Characters are being overly described, sometimes with two or three sentences to hammer the same point, which hampers the overall flow and breaks the often graceful stride of his prose. Storytelling is about shifting gears at the right moments and Truman's pen sometimes get stuck in fifth gear a little too long.

TALES OF LUST, HATE & DESPAIR is a strange title for what this novel is. It's not your run-off-the-mill hardboiled novel with a "score", local mobsters and everything. It's a coming-of-age in marginal cultures. A Johnny Cash song for the twenty-first century. You may not know who Ian Truman is, but reading TALES OF LUST, HATE & DESPAIR will leave a strong enough impression, you won't forget him afterwards. Not only he has an obvious talent for dialogue, but Truman has a unique perspective on what he is writing and what he has lived through. That singularity is the greatest thing a writer can have of himself. There aren't two pens like Truman's in the writing business.

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