Friday, September 25, 2015

NO TOMORROW by Jake Hinkson

"A couple of dreams are all I have left. So dream a little, just for me."
Jake Hinkson is one of the only crime writers today that really nails the feel of old pulp fiction. His work feels perfect for a tiny paperback with some steamy cover art by Robert McGinnis or Robert E. Schulz and a little Gold Medal logo on the corner. This novel felt even more like an old Gold Medal pulp than his others I've read so far (haven't read The Big Ugly yet), possibly due to it's period setting.

The story takes place in 1947 and follows a woman named William "Billie" Dixon (she was given her father's name by her mother as a big fuck-you to the no-good bastard), who works for one of the Poverty Row B-movie studios in Hollywood, tasked with traveling to small country towns to peddle movie masterpieces like this one: 
It's pretty mind-numbing work but things get a bit more interesting when she rides into a tiny Ozark town and falls for the bored wife of the town's blind preacher. This can't end well, can it?

Something I really appreciated about this story was how Hinkson treated Billie's homosexuality. Similar books that take place in the 40's would have either handled it luridly, with pulpy, erotic overtones, or would have handled it with a precious, romantic touch, illustrating Billie's bravery and desire to follow her heart during a time of persecution. But Hinkson does neither. Instead, Billie just is who she is, a lover of women and a habitual heartbreaker, and Hinkson doesn't really dwell on it; that's not what the book is about. Also, I loved the characters of Lucy and Eustace, the brother/sister sheriff duo, Billie's relationship with them, and the subtle way that Hinkson develops it. The Lucy/Eustace/Billie relationship is one of my favorite aspect of all of Hinkson's work so far.

But, alas, this novel isn't as completely awesome as others by Hinkson. The first two-thirds of the novel were great and featured the same skilled writing I love from the author, but the final act suffers a bit from what I thought was a big drop in momentum. While I love where he ultimately takes Billie's character, there came a point where it seemed like I turned into just a patient observer as the story strolled along to an ending that I knew was coming but hoping that there might be some surprises along the way. And while the ending was fairly satisfying, the last act never matched the plot strength of the rest of the book. But hey, a less-than-stellar Hinkson book is still better than a lot of the stuff out there now. 

The novel is ultimately about the unrealistic, romantic expectations and ideals that we all have, but how those ideals come with a price and real life is never the fairy tale that we expect. It's also about how we tragically miss real, genuine opportunities in our lives because of these expectations. Don't make this one your first book by the author, but if you're a fan of his other work, it's a solid addition!


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