Right, let’s pray for rain to keep Ray Banks inside, burping up some more dark material! The devil knows a good deal, but this rugged writer clearly knows more, and it is this bit of bonus dirt, this extra mud he drags us through: DEAD MONEY should come with a dry cleaning voucher.

The strength of this languidly paced, atmospheric book lies in the relationship between boozy first-person narrator and luckless salesman Alan Slater, a guy trapped in a marriage as cozy as a waxen death mask, and his hardly likable, loudmouthed windbag pal Les Beale. The latter runs up gambling debts and attracts shambles the way wool coats can’t stop picking up fluff. By one of those accidents of so-called fate, homicide enters the picture, and the story is off somewhere sickening.

DEAD MONEY works as a character study, but interestingly enough it’s somehow irrelevant to the story’s power. Here is a noir so sure of its urban setting that Manchester itself constantly overlays the ‘reality’ of Alan and Les: it is this both beautiful and battered city (ok ok, I know it quite a bit) that makes symbolic use of DEAD MONEY’s main characters, and mocks their very social existence.

Throughout DEAD MONEY, Banks treats pop, pulp, quick cuts, all those modern references as ideas to be parodied; if he were a painter, he would come up with nude souls, captured and cannibalized at once in a controlled, cynical way. Despite its strong overtones of funniness, DEAD MONEY is one of the bleakest noirs I have read in a long while. Banks does not sell hope, but he does not make us turn away and weep either: we are wooed (and won) by a clever doubleness, a blend of filth and fun that stirs our empathy with leading character Alan Slater.

So? Let it rain.

Published by Blasted Heath, available now


About conniephoebe

Freelance journalist, playwright
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