Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Rat On Fire (George V. Higgins, 1981)

Reads like a stage adaption of Elmore Leonard. Dark but funny, authentic and realistic but at the same time very believable. And of course full of interesting characters who establish themselves almost entirely through dialogues.

Story is unusual and cool too. Not some big time multimillion caper involving pros and beautiful dames. There's simply this ass-hole lawyer who owns a run-down building in slums which gets infested by rats so (obviously!) his tenants refuse to pay him the rent. So instead of fixing these problems (as you probably know yourself, this is something fucking landlords never do), he rather opts for an insurance arson scam.

I love character and dialogue driven plots so this one should be 5/5 and it actually was for the first third or so. But the whole setup takes way too long before some action finally kicks off and by then it loses a lot of its initial momentum. Also dialogs become repetitive, tedious and too long so at times it feels like you are stuck inside some endless monologues. It still works and plot sticks together but everything simply becomes a bit boring to be honest.

Good and interesting stuff, but it feels more like an experiment than finished product. I'll be definitely checking Higgins again.

3.5/5

Facts:

HeroThere is no central hero. I think that of all the characters I most (dis)liked Jerry Fein
Location:Boston
Body count: 1
Dames:/
Blackouts: /

Title: 
Leo sets the building on fire by catching some rats, then pours gasoline over them (!) so their skin itches, sets the poor rodents on fire (!!!) and lets them run into the interior of walls where electrical wires and pipes are. So it's pretty accurate title, probably plural would be more appropriate.

But of course rat is just a metaphor for our bunch of villains, so - again - plural would be more accurate.
 
Cover
Pretty cool and somewhat funny. Letters and burned match beneath them are placed in such position that one can imagine a slightly grinning face.

Cool lines:
Oddly enough, couldn't find nothing to put here. No witty Tarantino-esque one-liners, the whole thing is simply too serious and realistic. Jerry's insane ravings about nig*#*! are memorable (as much as I hate to admit some of them also funny) but they are far to politically incorrect to quote them here.

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