Books Magazine

Rough Around the Edges, Review of Jeffery Stone’s “Play Him Again”

By Crossstitchyourheart @TMNienaber

I received a free reviewer copy of this book.

Rough Around the Edges, Review of Jeffery Stone’s “Play Him Again”
This is the second noir inspired book I’ve been asked to review and I’m pleased to know the genre isn’t dead as it is one of my favorites.  That being said there’s a certain balance that has to be struck with successful noir and it takes a great deal of skill to get that balance right.  This is what separates the classics from the newly minted.

Matt Hudson, “Hud”, is a bootlegger, film connoisseur, lovable ganster, and hero of the book.  When his life long friend, Danny, is found dead in a car that has been driven into a lake with broken hands and a bottle of rye whiskey on the seat next to him Hud knows this is a crime that doesn’t need the cops.  It needs revenge.  Set in the golden age of Hollywood and heat of prohibition this novel has all the elements of a classic noir from the femme fatale to the detective working right at the edge of the law (or, in some cases, crossing the line).

One of the most important elements of noir fiction is the pacing.  You have a dark, gritty storyline with characters who are rough around the edges and a plot that picks up speed and keeps going.  Unfortunately pacing is one thing Stone’s book is seriously lacking.  While the silent/talking film bent of the book is taken in an interesting direction Stone includes pages of history about the film industry.  This information comes at awkward times, breaks up the plot, and makes an otherwise fast paced novel drag. The writing is technical and changes the tone of the book, making it feel as though the author is interrupting his own story with a tangent to the reader.  It’s obvious the author has done his research, but it hasn’t been put in the right place. It would work much better if the author included all the technical details in a forward, footnotes, or appendix.

This broken up pacing really puts a damper on the story.  It’s hard to keep the characters straight between perspective changes and background information.  It took me well into the 30% mark before I was able to figure out who was who.  Once the book hit about 60% the story picks up and the background information stops interrupting and this is when the story really starts to shine.  Stone has great potential as a writer of noir fiction.  He is able to create tension, a gritty dynamic, characters that stand out, and that atmosphere of old noir fiction and films that I love.  Sadly I was so burnt out by the book at this point I wasn’t able to enjoy it for what it was.

I liked Matt Hudson and I’m interested to see where Stone takes his series in the future.  I would just be wary of keeping the book from sounding like a film studies course and keep it to the short, gritty, and intense noir fiction Stone did so well in the second half of his book.

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