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'Reading Transports Me'
The Guards, a Novel by Ken Bruen
© 2013 James LaFond
The Guards
A Novel
Ken Bruen
2001, Saint Martin’s Press, NY, 291 pages
To begin with I do not prefer to read crime fiction. There is one thing that does recommend it. Crime fiction writers, like western authors, tend to avoid the over-wordy fat books put out in the science-fiction and romance genres. The Guards is a slim 291 pages, and could have been typeset at 220 pages without reducing the typeface. While the interior design is pleasing and easy to read, the cover gives me a headache just looking at it—a real physical headache.
Ken Bruen’s protagonist is Jack Taylor, a dryly comic reading buff, who also happens to be a deeply immersed alcoholic and an ex-guard [guards being Irish police]. The book starts off quick with a tight back-story. The author then effortlessly introduces the supporting cast, including a snobby young neighbor, a crusty barkeep, a progressively maniacal artist/thug, a crass young female, and some brutally corrupt guards.
The drinking and violence are handled in such a way as to advance the story without becoming a distraction. Both of these aspects are brutal, but are finely balanced with precisely chosen lyrical dialogue, touchingly realistic snippets of personal relationships, and are counterpoised with Jack Taylor’s obsession with beautiful literature and meaningful music. Jack’s life of self-destructive squalor is made more poignant by his reaching love for these things and his inability not to care about those around him who do not wish to self-destruct.
I’ll be reading Mister Bruen again I think.
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