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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Broken Mirrors Can Bring Bad Luck

Crashing Through Mirrors
By Anonymous-9
(81 pages)
(Elaine Ash; Oct. 4, 2014)
Ebook sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

If Elaine Ash pens a first-person account of a unicorn that lives in a submarine off the coast of Denmark and subsists on a diet of pink cotton candy, I will take her book seriously.

More to the point, I will buy the damned thing and enjoy it -- even though I despise  unicorns and find cotton candy repulsive.

Author Ash, who writes crime fiction under the pseudonym Anonymous-9, not only makes you believe in her characters, but also accept the situations she puts them in.

Elaine Ash (AKA Anonymous-9)
If you don’t believe she is capable of this sort of magic, try reading either of her novels about paraplegic Dean Drayback, a vigilante with a difference: he is trapped in a wheelchair and depends on his helper animal, the Capuchin monkey Sid, to help him settle scores with hit and run drivers like the one who left him crippled and killed his daughter.

In Ash's expert hands, you find yourself believing that Dean can train a monkey to kill, that Sid is smart enough to outwit other animals and even humans and that nobody notices that a handicapped man has taken up murder as part of his psychological rehabilitation. Through a sheer effort of imagination, she creates a universe in which the impossible becomes possible and the motivations that drive the central figures are totally credible.

Ash has accomplished this sort of sleight of hand again in her novella, Crashing Through Mirrors, a story in which a pop musician is brutally robbed and raped in an abandoned parking lot after a gig. The assault leaves our protagonist, Bern Aldershot, a basket case who is unable to trust or interact with friends and colleagues, and incapable of playing his signature bass lines. 

He is simultaneously consumed with rage and depression at the violation and is on the cusp of suicide when he discovers that he is not alone: his vicious assailant has attacked, raped and killed a host of other victims using an identical MO.

With the help of London, a 16-year-old female fan who wants him to teach her how to play the bass, Bern dedicates himself to tracking down the homicidal stranger. On the way he encounters musicians, parking lot attendants, sound engineers – even a gang of violent bikers who take offense at the motorcycle he is temporarily using to get around.

Worst of all, his psychopathic assailant is playing a game of cat and mouse with him that puts Bern and his new friend London in mortal danger.

Ash has managed the unlikely in this slim 81-page novella: with even less breathing room than she had in Hard Bite or Bite Harder, her two full-length novels about Dean Drayback, she has managed to breathe life into her main characters. 

Even her psychopath – the kind of baddie authors often render haphazardly, solely to move the plot forward – is invested with sufficient personality to become an actual character and not simply an element of plot mechanics.

The bio blurb for the story says in putting Mirrors together Ash drew on her years as a touring musician and her familiarity with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. This expertise is critical because a couple of key plot points in the story involve paparazzi and the difficulty a celebrity faces in maintaining any sort of personal privacy.

She writes about the music business with authority, but still manages a light touch. The sequences in which her protagonist is attacked are so grueling they convince you she has been garroted by an assailant herself.

In her webpage, Ash says she had originally intended to try selling this novella to one of the Big Five publishers, but decided to self-publish it in order to get it in circulation prior to this year’s Bouchercon conference in Long Beach.

Personally, I am glad it is available sooner rather than later. This is a short book that takes an hour or so to read, and the Kindle edition costs less than a dollar. If you haven’t enjoyed Ash’s fiction previously, Crashing Through Mirrors is a hell of a good place to start. 

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. If it has A-9 on it, grab it.

    Good point about her villains. They really are the heroes of their own stories, and they give the story depth that most crime fiction lacks.