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SAFER - Review

I think I have mentioned the extremely high regard I hold Mr. Doolittle's fiction. I would put him as one for the finest writers to emerge in the last 5 to 6 years in Crime Fiction and specifically in the Neo Noir writing of the new millennium.

THE CLEANUP was his previous release and I foolishly waited until this year to read it. Definitely one of the better reads from this year and likely the best non 2009 release I am going to get. If you want to laugh and have your stomach turned within a few pages THE CLEANUP is the book for you.

SAFER moves out of the Pulp Noir urban landscape and into the Suburban Noir neighborhood. I found the book very reminiscent of the film CONSENTING ADULTS. That Kevin Kline and Kevin Spacey film dealt with the suburban malaise of the upper middle class who find their lives empty of any real meaning. You shouldn't remember this film because it is not very good, but it is a guilty pleasure of mine. SAFER is plugging into the same zeitgeist of suburban malaise, only the book does not end with Kevin Spacey trying kill everyone with a machine gun.

SAFER is told as a mixture of current events with flashbacks to fill out the story of how a young couple runs afoul with the neighborhood watch. The malaise that is the crux of the book should actually be refined to read 'male' suburban malaise. This male malaise here is personified by Paul Callaway. On the surface you can't help feel for the guy. Paul Callaway and his wife have moved for her job, and it is apparent from almost the first moment that Paul is unhappy. She has the career and the respect, he is the neutered Adjunct professor teaching shiftless college students. Paul is the one falsely accused of sexual harassment of a minor. Paul is the innocent one who the cops don't believe. Paul is the one who stands up to the persecution of the Neighborhood Patrol Captain. Paul is a courageous guy.

Paul is also the guy who has is own head well and truly up his own ass. Paul is among a generation of men who think that the world owes them respect just because they showed up. Paul defines the kind of jerk that has been given everything in life without doing any of the hard work the rest of us have to do. Paul is a jackass, and the best part of this book is watching him get his comeuppance. Deserved or not, watching Paul's world crumble is the most satisfy part of the book.

Paul's rival is the Neighborhood Patrol Captain, Roger Mallory. Roger is the villain here, but as SAFER plays out my sympathies certainly started out with him. As a character Roger has had real hardship, the kidnapping and murder of his son. What has Paul struggled against? Having to teach three classes a semester rather than two? Early on the actions of Roger can be viewed as an earnest, if a bit misguided, interest in the protection people of his neighborhood. Eventually his actions turn and damn him. I would be interested in Mr. Doolittle's own take on Roger Mallory. Even in the end the Mr. Doolittle was able to illicit sympathy for Roger. The corruption of his soul is much sadder. The real weight of the book is in those moments. Paul's corruption is just pathetic, a stinging rebuke of a selfish, irresponsible generation of men. Mr. Doolittle eschews much of the comedic elements that made THE CLEANUP a real winner, but the emotional impact of SAFER stretches far greater into the distance.


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