Actually I’m doing something quite uncomplicated – write a review to tell that I think KILL CLOCK is a terrific novella. I’m not a fan of its author – I just happen to like the trim, well-written stuff he comes up with, and would rather read an unwritten story by Allan Guthrie than a published novel with 500+ pages by many other crime fiction writers. Why?
As a reader, you get pulled into Guthrie’s stories like a summer person into a sudden snow scene: sorry, no gloves. After a bit, you want out. Seriously. But then this is not stupid daytime TV, where you can just switch to a sunny stretch. This is prose that prefers to be exposed, that challenges the cold – and in doing so makes numb readers’ skeletons rattle with something way beyond chill.
Characters are battered, emotions are raw, and rawness is what makes the tag NOIR get to you here. KILL CLOCK features Gordon Pearce, a character Guthrie kicked into a muddy stream of events in his debut novel, TWO-WAY SPLIT. (It pays off big time to read that one. Trust me. The whole thing about becoming a fan is fake, you just get hooked instead and that’s that).
Pearce is that kind of guy who most of the time remembers that being halfway nice is OK, and not an uncontrollable annoyance like some nervous tic. He went through much crap and has placed hard times behind him, just in order to embrace with stoic demeanor some new trouble.
Pace is Guthries forte. Hours, minutes, seconds seem to move back and forth and bounce. Time is nasty, and so present in this tight prose that it appears to belong to the cast like a fully developed character.
KILL CLOCK is fast, but doesn’t plot too far ahead. The story (roughly 70 percent tough misery, 17 percent nihilism and a kick of 13 percent of what could possibly pass as smudged goodness) unfolds with simplicity, and drags the reader along. Pearce and his crippled dog get involved in an ex-girlfriends catch 22 (serious threat, loan shark, dead of night deadline, two shaken, fatherless children – that kind of thing). Reluctantly he makes it his mission to help, but things quickly spin out of control in a fusion of night and nastiness; even a second, less battered Ex of Pearce fails to get things off the dark track. Guthrie never makes the grave mistake to confuse misery with tragedy. He does not get too fancy about violence, but just makes sure all protective screens are removed: Noir pure. Neither becoming a fan, nor buying a pair of gloves lets the reader off the hook.