Review: Disintegration by Richard Thomas
Author: Richard Thomas
Genre: Neo Noir, Crime
On Milwaukee Street in the seedy underbelly of Chicago we are introduced to our main character. A sad, wreak of a man who remains nameless throughout the book. The victim of a life altering event only hinted at initially, he spends his days drinking and self-medicating, sometimes slaking his lust with an enigma of a woman whom we know little of. At times a manila envelope appears in his apartment, a job for him to do.
These various jobs are brutal, murders he must commit where the victims seem to be criminals of a varying nature; the only common ground appears to be that they are not on the police radar. Unlike Jeff Lindsay´s Dexter Morgan this protagonist does not bother with the moral aspect of what he does, at least not initially. His deeds are dictated by the mysterious Vlad, a man whose reach throughout the criminal world of the Second City seems vast, but whose motives are shrouded in mystery.
This nameless antihero becomes very polarizing as the reader is thrown between sympathy and loathing in regard to his actions. Always on the brink of rage he beats a man who is cruel to a dog or guns down a woman driving under the influence. As a reader one follows his slow descent into debauchery, madness and rage until we are uncertain what is to become of him. Everything takes a turn when it is revealed that our protagonist might not be the only killer that Vlad employs and that the events that caused him to end up in his lowly state may not be a coincidence. The tangled weave that has become reality is about to become unraveled.
Richard Thomas, as he often points out, came into writing late in life and Disintegration is his first full length novel. However he has published a myriad of short stories as well as been in charge of a column on literactor, where he discusses the art of writing extensively. His extensive body of fiction spans all types of genres; everything from horror to crime and all with a darkness and gloom as common elements. For those who have read Thomas’ posts on literactor it is easy to see that he believes in what he says. Several of his tips and tricks he has related to the readers are frequently used, making Disintegration a study in how to captivate the reader as well as how to be original in writing.
The readers are treated to fragments of a bigger picture and are left to do their own interpretation to backgrounds, as well as reasons and driving forces. Every time the readers think they know the deal a new event turns it all upside down.
The main character of Disintegration is a man on the brink, having lost it all he is closer to Frank Castle, The Punisher, without the sense of revenge and with a good deal of both Mike Hammer and Sam Spade thrown in the mix.
Richard Thomas has truly created a story that places itself as the next step in the hard boiled thriller. Borrowing from Noir forerunners like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler and stepping off contemporaries like Warren Ellis he takes the genre to another level.
Disintegration is a great read for those who want to see an original work in progress, but also for those who want to see that noir is alive and well and that Thomas will make sure it stays that way.