Monday, December 28, 2015

"Beauty and Battle" A Review of Barry Lancet's New "Pacific Burn"

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Pacific Burn is  murder, betrayal, and insane martial arts mixed with near-pornographic descriptions of Japanese art, ceramics, and folkways. 

Well, as pornographic as a tea bowl can get, anyway.

This combination of hard-nosed private eye with art expert wouldn’t work in a traditional Western genre except that Jim Brodie, the hero, is clearly a modern samurai following the Bushido Code. Samurai weren’t only the slashing and bashing class in ancient Japan, they actually invented the tea ceremony, black ink calligraphy painting, and those raked gravel gardens. Inner peace and external mayhem weren’t seen as a conflict. 

The bifurcation of Jim Brodie is shown by his split professional life. In San Francisco, he is a dealer in ultra-fine Japanese art that inspires descriptions like this: “...the black was superior, its glaze luxuriant but subdued. The interior walls swept downward in a dramatic touch. The bottom had a full, luscious curve that finished with a subtle indentation at the center.” (You don’t want to buy that damn tea cup, you want to take it out for cocktails and hope you get lucky!) 
In Tokyo, he’s a tough and experienced private eye who’s on a first name basis with both the police and the yakuza and, in case you thought the bit with the bowl means he’s a wimp, kicks some serious ass. “I dropped to the ground, pushing both hands palm out to break my fall, then flipped on my side, Supported by my forearm and strong leg and leveraging the momentum of my leg sweep, I “walked” my free hand in a rapid circle…helicoptered my legs around and knocked him off his feet.” 

Lancet takes this terrific mix of beauty and battle and layers in the ruinous aftermath of the nuclear meltdown in Tokyo, a killer so deadly that street toughs give themselves up to avoid him, and the sort of expert descriptions of the places and patterns that make up the real Japan that usually belong to John Rain. In the end, though, Brodie is the quintessential American private eye: one man standing alone with only his personal honor to prevail against a venal society out to break him and everything he loves. 

Wait. Isn’t that the image of masterless ronin with only their personal honor to live by? 

OK, it’s Sam Spade meets the Magnificent Seven. Art meets action and creates a world-class read."

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