Always nice to discover a good new writer, especially in the crime field. I just read Megan Abbott’s The Song is You and liked it so much I immediately went on to another of hers, Bury Me Deep, which I’m likewise liking.
The Song is You is inspired by the 1949 real-life disappearance of bit-part actress Jean Spangler. It follows the exploits of guilt-ridden studio flack Gil Hopkins, a fictional character who helped kill the Spangler story in the press at the time it happened. Now it’s a couple of years later and Hopkins isn’t sure whether he’s trying to keep the story buried or dig it up himself to get at the truth.
It’s immensely smart, entertaining stuff. Abbott is apparently something of a film noir expert and she skates very close to the edge of pastiche without ever quite falling in. She gives you the snappy dialogue, tough guys and sassy dames you might find in an old Dana Andrews picture, but she makes all of it seem real and alive. Plus – unlike almost every other female writer who tries it – she writes her man very, very well and describes his feelings toward women in a thoroughly realistic way without being judgmental or condescending.
Hilariously, a lot of politically correct reviewers describe Abbott as a feminist writing about the unfair treatment of women back in the evil old past. This strikes me as dumb. I’ve no idea what Abbott’s politics are, sexual or otherwise, but the books as I read them are simply trying to recapture an America that lives half in history and half in our collective imagination. Her books are like a really good night watching Turner Classic Movies – only better… because they’re, you know, books.