My Favourite Crime Novels – No. 19

Shoot Shoot, by Douglas Fairbairn, is one of those novels that was a bestseller in its day but was slowly forgotten by readers until it eventually stopped being reprinted (in the UK, at least). Frankly, it deserves better than languishing unread on the bookshelves of second-hand bookstores.

Shoot is a strange novel, almost too difficult to categorise, which might account for its current out-of-print status. It is a crime novel, yet not a crime novel – it deals with a crime and its aftermath, setting the reader up for a bigger crime at the climax, but it doesn’t have the feel of crime fiction, even if it does have the spare, clipped prose; It is more suspense than thriller, although ultimately it isn’t quite either – the finale is pure thriller, but the lead-up is all about suspense, and yet it isn’t really either, it seems to be something else entirely; it isn’t strictly a character study, more a study of America’s odd relationship with guns – Rex Jeanette, the narrator, is the only character we really get to know and even he remains mired in obscurity, only really coming alive when he’s discussing guns or previous exploits.

If I had to classify Shoot I would call it Gun Noir. Jeanette and the rest of the characters are unsatisfied with their middle-aged lives; financial success, women, children, sex, consumerism, none of these things quite fill the void that seems to have been left by their wartime exploits. In fact, you get the feeling that none of these men really like each other, despite the fact that they have been friends for years. The only common bond they share is their war exploits and a love for guns.

It is a superb piece of work – a novel that makes you think, a novel with an ending that stays with you – but don’t necessarily expect it to fulfil your expectations. In some respects it reminds me of Harry Crews’ A Feast Of Snakes, but without the element of the surreal which makes Snakes such an original. If you can get hold of it, please read Shoot – it’s definitely a one of a kind.

The Hunters now has a cover…

Here’s the cover for my novella The Hunters, which will introduce the world (a very small portion, most likely) to the Stanton brothers a pair of Teesside villains who steal only from other villains.

The cover pretty much describes what’s going to happen inside — guns, bloodshed, a general air of brutality. Or at least that’s what I hope is the case. Comments about the design (by yours truly) is most welcome. If you like it, tell me why. And if you think it’s a hideous bag o’ shite, then share you reasons for that too!

By the way, the novella is pretty bloody close to a finished first draft. A short break will ensue, for reflection and to get back to my second novel, and then it’s time for revisions and redrafts.

Mark it in your diaries: The Hunters will be unleashed on the world in December.