Monday, July 23, 2018

Gun in Cheek: Review

Gun in Cheek (1982) is a collection of the "best" of the worst in American and British crime fiction. Bill Pronzini provides the reader with a run-down of synopses and large snatches of quotations of what, in his opinion, represents some of the worst stories and writing in various subgenres of mystery--everything from hard boiled dicks to Had-I-But-Known damsels in distress and amateur detectives to the boys in blue and everything in between. Pronzini's got us covered.

Mike Tooney tells us in his review over at Mystery*File that we shouldn't "try to read this book in one sitting because it just might make you dizzy with laughter." Unfortunately, humor is a subjective thing and I think maybe my sense of humor is far afield from Mike's (and most of the reviewers on Goodreads). I just honestly didn't find many instances where the passages were so doggone funny. Most passages were either examples of just plain bad writing or (especially in the hard boiled line) it seemed like business as usual. After all, hard boiled detective stories seem to corner the market on outlandish descriptions such as this:

She was as lovely as a girl could be without bludgeoning your endocrines. (from Killers Are My Meat by Stephen Marlowe)

The best of the book seems to me to be the tidbits of publishing history that Pronzini gives us along the way. For example, the interesting chapter giving background on Phoenix Press. He also provides details on the development of the various subgenres and his comments on various authors and their characters is often more entertaining than the passages he quotes. In fact, I enjoyed it most when it seemed to be at its most serious--giving facts and background rather than trying to provide passages that I thought sure were supposed to be funny....but weren't. ★★ (primarily for the history and facts)

[Finished 6/27/18. I feel a little--but just a little--bad claiming this for the Humor Challenge. BUT I put it on the list fully expecting it to be funny and many others have found it funny. So--on the Humor Challenge it goes.]

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