Saturday, May 15, 2010
MaxCrime, 2010. UK ed. ISBN 978-1-84454-922-1. 282 pages. Cover with cake.
Busted Flush Press, 2010. U.S. ed. ISBN 978-1935415244. 250 pages. Cover with Lette and Dora.
The old dogs of the title are two jewel-encrusted gold Shih Tzu dogs on loan to the West End Park Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. These statues, originally from Tibet but now in a private collection, are worth around £15 million. An odd assortment of people are "interested" in these objets d'art but at the centre are La Contessa Letizia di Ponzio and her sister, Signora Teodora Grisiola, otherwise known as Letty and Dora, ex-prostitutes who have turned to grifting in their old age. They are in town running a long con involving horses when they read about the exhibit. Let's say that the intrinsic beauty of the statues is not what is drawing them to the museum. I'm not going to say any more about the plot; watching the different parties work their angles is part of the enjoyment of reading the story and I don't want to give anything away.
I was going to put Old Dogs in the screwball noir genre but then noticed that the blurb on the UK cover calls it a screwball caper. The two terms mesh well in this book and give you a pretty good idea what to expect: there are screwball characters, there is a caper, and there is a bit of dark nastiness. It all adds up to a fun read.
Donna introduced Letty and Dora in the short story anthology, Damn Near Dead: Old, Bold, Uncontrolled An Anthology of Geezer Noir. Donna's contribution, Pros and Cons, features the "Contessa" and the "Signora." It's published by Busted Flush Press and available from the Amazons and Book Depository.
Besides a fine story well told, non-Scottish readers will feel that they are learning a foreign language, Glaswegian. If I make it to Glasgow and someone calls me a mad rocket or a fannybaws I'm well prepared to respond.
In Old Dogs I also learned about a carbonated soft drink called Irn-Bru which the two neds in the story say is good for hangovers. I found a couple of bottles in a local supermarket. In spite of the blinding florescent orange color that earned me a skeptical look from my wife ("You're going to drink that!?") it's OK. The advertisements are quite funny so check out their web site.
I knew that Donna could tell a good story from her blog, Big Beat From Badsville. So to supplement your reading of Old Dogs, I recommend On Being Mugged and Half Mugged where you will learn about neds and boiler suits. Other fun reads are her Tales From the 62 Bus which gets a nod in the story.
Despite being a librarian, I don't often engage in "If you liked this..." recommendations (I think it's something we are supposed to do). In this case, however, if you enjoy Old Dogs then read Declan Burke's The Big O and its sequel Crime Always Pays. Likewise, if you've read Dec's books then get Old Dogs immediately.