Sunday, August 16, 2015

Brainquake (Samuel Fuller, written in early 90s, published 2014)

Paul Page is a bagman in New York who falls for the wrong woman. Together they steal money from his employers, go on the run and end up tragically in Paris. A bagman? A highly trained professional who transports dirty money for organised crime.

It starts super cool: "Sixty seconds before the baby shot its father, leaves fell lazily in Central Park"

And with such a killer opening line and Fuller and mobsters and anti-hero with his babe on the run... it simply got to be good, right? Well, not exactly. The first part - the boy-meets-girl & money stuff in New York - is okay, and it might even function if it wasn't so insanely blown out of proportions. Cartoonish characters (like that priest hit-man dude) I can digest, but carrying not just millions but (literally) billions of dollars in cash while being chased by (again-literally) pirates is just a bit too much.

And it should end in New York because the whole Paris thing (another 100+ pages) quickly turns into an incomprehensible mess. The plot falls apart, and there are so many incredible coincidences (like protagonists keep bumping into each other all the time) that they cannot simply be coincidences. I kept thinking for some time that they were some kind of metaphors (that I just wasn't getting) or shit like that. But the further and the crazier it got, the more convinced I was that Fuller simply wanted to finish the book and had run out of ideas.

But interestingly enough, the megalomania and surreal world from the first part gives us one of the craziest and most memorable villains in the long history of villains. Chapter 16 describes a typical day in the office of Cornelius Hampshire - the most powerful man throughout the civilized and uncivilized world of crime. In a mere five pages, Cornelius and his four lieutenants manage to coordinate crime all around the globe - stuff ranging from narcotics and banana republic revolutions to money laundry and high investment banking. They, of course, also briefly touch on the piracy situation in which our Paul is involved. And we get to know the humane side of Cornelius because he seems to be a big baseball fan:

"Good. Michael, what's going on with Citra?"
"She's being executed Friday."
"Get our liaison to buy her freedom. Give him a million."
"He's being executed with her."
"Goddam it! She's the best distributor in Malaya."
"She was."
"What about Russia?"
"The ban on farms growing poppies shot opium prices sky high."
"Addicts'll pay the difference. Take advantage of the revolt of the ruble. And, oh yes, on the baseball scandal? Kill any bastard selling drugs to ballplayers. I love that game. Don't fuck around with baseball. Ever."

Unforgettable. Super cool and funny. The whole chapter demands repeated readings!

I know this is Fuller's last book, and it's great that Hard Case Crime published it, but it has to be said the whole thing is a bit weird. 



Paul Page, a bagman

New York and Paris

Body count:  
20 - including two cops in the final shoot-out (although there could be more) but excluding Eddie and Michelle. And I wouldn't give this duo much of survival chances because in the very last chapter they are spotted (another unbelievable coincidence btw) in Avoriaz by the hit-man Father Flanagan.

Paul suffers from some undefined brain disorder that he calls "Brainquake". It's not a tumour or anything else that modern medicine can deal with, so I assume it must be another metaphor I have missed.

Hard Case Crime #116

Another cool one by Glen Orbik with Max Phillips designing the cover. And after visiting Phillips' website, I finally realised that the man is not an illustrator :) I need to check some of my old posts and fix artists' credits on them.

Notable cover blurbs: 
None really notable. Maybe because all of them are written by filmmakers?

Cool lines:
Entire chapter #16

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