This year, i read everything i could find online by Norbert Davis. He was a prolific pulp writer in the 30s and 40s, now only really known as one of Wittgenstein’s favourites. Out of curiosity, i downloaded The Mouse in the Mountain, Sally in the Alley, Oh, Murder Mine, Holocaust House, Something for the Sweeper, and began reading them on the 14-hour train from Geneva to Munich shortly after my last nearly-fatal asthma attack.

i don’t generally have much interest in being cheered up, consoled, comforted, etc. Actually, it makes me sick. But Davis’ books were just what i needed on that brutally long, slow train journey home (i left Geneva at about 1600 and got back to Munich at 0600). This was a grim time as i knew i would get a bill, possibly for several thousand Euros (mostly for the ambulance), and i was still shaky after nearly dying, and my phone ran out of credit after one of my bosses called me from Germany (i didn’t realise this would cost me), then i tried to text Juniper in Zurich, to ask her to look for train connections to Munich (there were none and i couldn’t find the travel office) but the phone cut out and she couldn’t call me as i had no credit left with which to receive her call, so she was convinced i was dead in a ditch, urinated on by the French and by assorted scoundrels & blackguards & apple polishers.

Crime thrillers usually don’t do much for me, probably because i have no interest in the subject itself. i can recognise that, for example, Ian Rankin’s books are good, but i just don’t find that world very interesting. Davis’ work is different. His books are crime thrillers in a sense, but only in a sense. There is a weird energy bursting out of the generic linearity. His hero, Doan, is a middle-aged, fat private detective. His sidekick, Carstairs, is a bear-sized Great Dane won in a game of poker. i have a fondness for enormous dogs. There is a good scene where Carstairs runs superbly amok in a beauty salon, scattering mud baths and beauty products on all & sundry. The books are funny but you also get the feeling they aren’t really intended to be funny; anymore than is Samuel Beckett – they just are.

i like these fat, middle-aged heroes, surviving in a world of strapping apple polishers, managers, and soccer jocks. There’s a pleasant fight scene where an enormous hulk of a man threates to kill Doan, at length; Doan beats him down and comments sourly:  “These tough guys.”

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