Damnation Street

Recently I’ve written about not loving a book everyone else seems to love, a mostly good anthology with a few clanks, and deciding not to star a review by a favorite author. I sound like a lot of fun, don’t I?

Being a book reviewer has definitely made me a more critical reader, but I’m certain that this would happen with a high level of exposure to anything. I love cheese with an unhealthy passion – one of these days I know I’ll wake up to hear my arteries cracking like winter ice – but if tasting cheese became my job, I would no doubt soon become aware of hitherto-unnoticed off notes in my beloved Camembert, Manchego, and Roquefort.

I tend to think that, with certain exceptions, this heightened sensitivity is an essential job skill. If everyone at Booklist were gee-golly instead of a tiny bit jaded, our readers wouldn’t be able to see the must-reads for all the hey-this-guy-tried-really-hard-let’s-give-his-book-a-chances.

Once in a while, though, I do pick up a book and just get hooked, start to finish. Monday night I finished reading Damnation Street, by Andrew Klavan (Harcourt, “An Otto Penzler Book”), and damned if it wasn’t a no-doubter. I kept thinking, though, that I was sure I’d read him before – and why didn’t I remember that he was this good?

Wrong Klavan. Thanks to Booklist Online, I was able to remind myself that I have in fact reviewed Laurence Klavan, The Cutting Room. (I liked it just fine.) Are they brothers? www.andrewklavan.com says yes.

At any rate, Andrew Klavan (who wrote True Crime) made me very happy indeed. Those of us who love crime novels are probably in some sense always questing after the thrill we found in the books (by guys named Hammett, Chandler, etc.) that got us started. But because so many writers have been working that beat for so long – lonely, hard-drinking private eyes haunted by good-hearted whores, making long nighttime drives through the pounding rain to abandoned houses where nothing good is bound to happen – that a lot of those elements have become cliche.

I know the “addict” metaphor gets pretty tired, but I really do think it often feels as if I’m chasing after the original rush but the drugs are weaker and at the same time my tolerance is growing. And then, once in a while, someone writes a book that takes all the old elements and puts them together in a way that is fresh and thought-provoking, sad and funny, and gripping as hell. In short, timeless. It’s like getting that first taste all over again….

Deadline tomorrow. Reviews to write.



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

2 Comments on "Damnation Street"

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  1. thecutbankkid@hotmail.com' The Cutbank Kid says:

    So, Mr. Brown, what you’re saying is that sometimes the reader is “Like a Virgin”?

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