Feb 7, 2017

Book Review--Need More Road: A Movie Obsessive in a Noir Situation

Need More Road

Stephen Jared
Solstice Publishing, 2016

I went into Need More Road feeling sure of the path it would take, almost anticipating the climax of what seemed like a familiar film noir plot of crime, a femme fatale and deception. While it begins with all the familiar traits of the genre, the story takes an unexpected turn, going deeper into its central characters than I expected. This unusual twist on genre conventions is Stephen Jared's latest in a series of novels that live in, and sometimes collide with, the world of classic film.

It is the story of Eddie, an almost-fifty bank teller who lives a life of near solitude. He spends his free time at the movies and since he is in a small town, that means he must often watch the same films repeatedly if he wants to get his regular cinematic fix. Seeing the world through the eyes of Robert Mitchum and the like gives him an eye for danger, and he recognizes the peril when movie-star gorgeous Mary Rose sashays into his life and seems suspiciously enamored with his bland self.

Eddie is tired of his uneventful life though. When Mary Rose starts talking about her mysterious father, and bank heists, he knows he is in for trouble, but he is too lit up by the way she makes him feel to back away. Aware that he is being betrayed, he rebels against his boredom and lonlieness.

I don't want to reveal too much about the turn this novel takes, but it does develop in a unique way. Most of it moves forward along a solid genre path, but then it turns away from convention and begins to tell the story in a different, more character-driven way. I feel like it would have been a more solidly constructed book if it had followed through in the tone with which it started, but it wouldn't have been as interesting. It has the feel of a movie fan stepping into a film and changing the narrative to fulfill a more personal vision.

In some respects the story climaxes early, leaving you waiting for a big finish that never comes. I have not been able to decide if I dislike this, or if this unusual narrative choice gnaws at me because it is unfamiliar. In some respects it retreats to safety; in others it boldly pushes back at expectations.

If you like Jared's other books, or appreciate fiction set in a classic film-inspired milieu, this should be of interest. It's good for an escape, dark, but not unrelentingly bleak, and with some intriguing historical detail.

Many thanks to Stephen Jared for providing a copy of the book for review.

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