Friday, December 07, 2007
Wyatt's 2nd and 3rd, by Garry Disher
The 2nd of Garry Disher's Wyatt novels is like a Southern Gothic (I compared Kickback, the first volume, to classic Westerns a couple of weeks ago). Wyatt wants to get the money back from the mob, called the Outfit, that hijacked his heist in Kickback, but needs to get a bankroll. Leah, a contact in small-town Australia, offers him the possibility: a payroll carried by a small armored car company that travels around the smalal towns in her area. Wyatt sets up a team, involving one slimeball and a slow-witted man right out of Sanctuary or No Orchids for Miss Blandish. But, as usual in this series, things go wrong. Wyatt jis supposed to be a master thief, or at least a master planner, but his glory days are behind him and he can't "get good help" anymore--his hijack is hijacked and he's on the run again, moving into volume 3, Deathdeal, which reunites him with the woman who set up his job in Kickback (and who double-crossed him then).
At the end of Deathdeal, Wyatt is telling himself that his luck can't get any worse, as he heads into a casino--but throughout the first three novels of this intriguing series, his luck couldn't be any worse. That brings out aspects of his character that we wouldn't see if his life was going according to plan, a big job now and then to finance travel to distant, quiet places. Instead, both his resourcefulness and his ruthlessness are on display. If volume 2 reads like Southern Gothic, volume 3 is like a pulp detective novel, something by David Goodis or maybe Charles Willeford--the people surrounding Wyatt are venal, greedy, vindictive, and often stupid. And as in classic noir, the characters with redeeming qualities are often convicts or other down-and-outers. The social portrait that Disher gives us is bleak and depressed, and described in terms that are more direct and grim than the more sympathetic and nuanced portrayal of the same social scene in his other crime series, featuring police rather than thieves. Disher has such control over his voice and his technique that we accept each of these very different series on its own terms, and though I find myself more drawn to the police precedurals, I'm still trying to get hold of the rest of the Wyatt books.