The past exists only in pieces, anymore.
When it comes to genre fiction, it's difficult to think outside the box. Genre itself is a box of some sort, so it's difficult to avoid the pitfalls and have your novel sound like every other one that came before yours. Originality and purpose are the name of the game for readers like me, and seems like these things are more than abstract concepts Greek-American author Michael Kazepis. His debut novel LONG LOST DOG OF IT is a love-letter to Athens, a social novel, an underworld labyrinth inspired by James Ellroy, a punk rock elegy and yes, maybe a noir novel also. It's a multi-purposed, fractured narrative that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
LONG LOST DOG OF IT is told from multiple point of views, in titled chapters, in a manner that reminded me of Steve Weddle's excellent novel-in-stories COUNTRY HARDBALL. The novel follows Pallas and Junesong, two lovers trying to stitch things up, broken-hearted vargrant Ciprian Varia, obsolete killer Aris Maniotis and a shawody figure through the chaotic streets of Athens, as the protest against the austerity measures are raging. Some of these characters were supposed to meet that night and some weren't, but when the order of things is knocked off balance, anything can happen.
Stylish neo-noir imprint Broken River Books took a chance on LONG LOST DOG OF IT, but I don't think it would be fair to call this novel a straight noir. It has more ambition than that. The network of character written by Michael Kazepis serves a clear purpose : illustrate the tormented beauty if the city of Athens and its inhabitants. In a way, this approach reminded me of Alfred Döblin's in BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, but Kazepis is not just happy to follow Döblin. There are punk rock elements to the content and the form of LONG LOST DOG OF ITthat remided me of Henry Rollins' books, quiet observations in the style of Raymond Carver and Haruki Murakami. Michael Kazepis used several sources of inspirations in order to create something that was 100% his and it's how his novel took a life of its own.
''Remember when they burned down the giant christmas tree?''
Pallas is surprised that she's finally speaking.
''I just like the idea of destroying a holiday.''
There is an overarching crime plot that ultimately ties things together in LONG LOST DOG OF IT, but somehow I don't think it was meant to be the center of the novel. To a certain extent, I didn't care about the crime plot very much. My favourite chapters were about Pallas and Junesong, and Ciprian Varia and illustrated the chaotic yet intoxicating nature of freedom. There is a good part of LONG LOST DOG OF IT that happens in a climate of political tension and/or political unrest and Kazepis draws his characters like doves flying through the cracked walls of a crumbling building, towards a future that contains as many mysteries as it contains hopes and promises for them. It's very good at this. Maybe my opinion was skewed by the fact I read LONG LONG DOG OF IT on a trip and I was craving chaos and new experiences, the crime aspect of this novel seemed distant and muted to me.
LONG LOST DOG OF IT is a short, beautiful and oddly quiet novel about Athens and the continuous rumbling chaos in its streets that can handle just about anything, from misery and murder to the end of social order. It doesn't matter whether or not you know anything about Athens, because Michael Kazepis loves it enough for two people and you'll lose yourself in its streets before you know it. LONG LOST DOG OF IT is not your typical noir, but it's not your typical novel period. Although you can feel influences flowing through it, It's a novel that'll win you over for that it is : a love letter to the underworld. Consider yourself on my radar, Michael Kazepis.