Holt McDougal | 2009
Filed Under: A Narcoleptic Fever Dream
I’ve tried a couple of times, with different authors, to read this kind of hard-boiled, noir private detective story and… it’s just not for me.
That’s putting it nicely, which is unusual for me.
So, to put it not so nicely, I think this particular genre is supposed to come across as classic, intense and pulpy serious. The private dick is a man of the streets and a man of law. He’s balancing his day-to-day life against the seedy underbelly he’s wrapped up in as he seeks justice and upholds the law by sometimes playing outside of its lines. Ugh, so gritty and dark.
But to me, it’s fucking goofy as hell.
All I can think about it “Fast Talking High Trousers.”
You can’t tell me I’m wrong! You can’t!
But supposing I was…
In a way, this was kind of a bummer for me because I do really like Tremblay’s other work, specifically his horror novels. But this is his first novel ever so we can’t totally hold it against him. We know he can write and we know not everyone has a hit right out of the gate. He’s clearly found his groove in his career at this point. So I’m sticking around for more scary shit and forgetting I ever read this.
I never totally found my footing with this book. On one hand, it’s almost a hard-boiled satire or like a meta take on the genre, where the MC Mark Genevich wants to be a Fast Talking High Trousers P.I. so bad he’s forcing himself into the job even though he’s objectively terrible at it.
He’s got the speech pattern down, he’s wearing the fucking hat, all he needs is a case that is more than boring property title searches. Then he falls asleep because he’s a narcoleptic.
And he’s a narcoleptic that smokes, which just makes him more unlikeable because he’s objectively also kind of dumb.
Because of the sleep disorder, there are huge chunks of this book that may or may not have been some kind of P.I. fever dream. There are some hallucination aspects to the novel that really only exist to confuse the reader probably because the mystery itself is pretty paint-by-numbers. All of that coupled with cataplexy and zombie-like sleepwalking means I never totally knew what the fuck was actually going on, even by the end. Not necessarily because it wasn’t clear, but because I didn’t care all that much. I was so disinterested in the case, in the characters and in the vibe, that I was emotionally checked out most of the time.
All of the classic P.I. noir elements were there – the mysterious female client, naked photos like we’re in Roger Rabbit, the hired goons who work for the powerful boss man – but all of it was so cliché. Like, just eye roll inducingly cliché and you know how much I’m definitely not a fan of that.
Maybe the same tired formula that has been beaten to fucking death in this genre works for the fans of it, but it was too much for me. The only thing that made it quirky, or unique, were all of the issues Genevich had between living with his mom, being bad at the job and falling asleep everywhere.
I also never really got the humour in this. The smart-ass tone that didn’t naturally flow with the genre, the wise-cracking and the constant self-deprecating one-liners, it was all just so…
This isn’t a terrible book, but it wasn’t for me. The plot was dragged out, formulaic and everything else was kind of annoying.
I would say just read Tremblay’s scary stuff instead.
The wickedly entertaining debut featuring Mark Genevich, Narcoleptic Detective
Mark Genevich is a South Boston P.I. with a little problem: he’s narcoleptic, and he suffers from the most severe symptoms, including hypnagogic hallucinations. These waking dreams wreak havoc for a guy who depends on real-life clues to make his living.
Clients haven’t exactly been beating down the door when Mark meets Jennifer Times―daughter of the powerful local D.A. and a contestant on American Star―who walks into his office with an outlandish story about a man who stole her fingers. He awakes from his latest hallucination alone, but on his desk is a manila envelope containing risqué photos of Jennifer. Are the pictures real, and if so, is Mark hunting a blackmailer, or worse?
Wildly imaginative and with a pitch-perfect voice, Paul Tremblay’s The Little Sleep is the first in a new series that casts a fresh eye on the rigors of detective work, and introduces a character who has a lot to prove―if only he can stay awake long enough to do it.