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Red Lights Paperback – 2 Jan 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: No Exit Press; New edition edition (2 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842430866
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842430866
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,069,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 7 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
It's quarter to three, there's no one in the place 30 Oct 2006
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Except you and me

So set 'em' up Joe, I got a little story

I think you should know

We're drinking my friend, to the end

Of a brief episode

Make it one for my baby

And one more for the road

Frank Sinatra's haunting signature song, "One for My Baby, (And One More for the Road) is an eerily suitable theme song for Georges Simenon's ode to a late night drinker, "Red Lights".

Simenon was prolific; he wrote hundreds of novels, most notably his Inspector Maigret mysteries. But Simenon's best work in my opinion can be found in what he called his "romans durs" ("hard stories"). In those stores you typically find a middle-aged male, leading a middle class life. In each story the protagonist hits a bump in the road (often of his own making) and this slight bump takes him off the level, boring road of respectability and puts him on a wild downhill road to the depths of darkness. "Red Lights" puts the protagonist, Steve Hogan, on a wild road, both literally and figuratively.

It is 1955 and the Friday of the Labor-Day Weekend. Steve and Nancy Hogan meet up at their local bar in Manhattan for a drink before setting off to Maine to pick their children up from Summer Camp. Steve wants another drink or two before he goes. He can sense he is heading to one of his periodic `tunnels' a dark place he finds within himself whenever he's had a bit too much to drink. His resentments, particularly toward his wife, come to the surface as they find themselves stuck in holiday traffic. He pulls over to a roadside bar (this was before the days when the interstate highway system covered the country) and tells Nancy he's going in for a drink. She tells him she's not going to wait. Steve walks into the bar and both their lives are changed forever. Each spouse embarks on a separate journey through hell, Steve's a self-inflicted trip, and Nancy's one set in motion by Steve's drinking. Both Steve and Nancy are in for a horrifying ride.

Simenon's prose, particularly his narration of Steve's thoughts as he drinks the night away, is compelling. Simenon is no `rank sentimentalist' to be sure but in Red Lights he does introduce a concept not often seen in his "romans durs", hope. It is not a false hope but a hope based on a shared experience. Whatever the outcome, "Red Lights" did not ring false for me. It was a quick and compelling read with a story line that would make a suitable script for a Twilight Zone episode. (In fact, a movie based on the book but set in France was released in 2004).

As "Red Lights" ended, I could hear Sinatra's One for My Baby end as well:

Well that's how it goes, and Joe I know your gettin'

Anxious to close

Thanks for the cheer

I hope you didn't mind

My bending your ear

But this torch that I found, It's gotta be drowned

Or it's gonna explode

Make it one for my baby

And one more for the road
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Give This Story the Green Light 23 Mar 2008
By R. Schultz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book was originally published as a novella entitled "The Hitchhiker," and is included in Simenon's "An American Omnibus," a selection of four of his stories set in America where he lived for a decade, away from the French settings we usually associate with his mysteries. Actually, it's not even a novella. It is more of a long short story. You'll probably be able to read it in one sitting.

The edition of the story that I'm reviewing was translated from the French by Norman Denny and is perhaps not the best version. There are little mistakes. For example, the nurses in a city Hospital are still referred to as "Sisters," as they would be on the Continent. And what we call the "first floor," is elevated, European-style, to what we call the "second floor." But there is a more general faltering quality to the conversations that makes them sound somewhat unrealistic and stilted.

"Red Lights" will probably hold your interest though. Even before the threat of a killer-on-the-loose is introduced, you might get a couple of shocks from the narrative - you might cringe. The story was written in 1955, not that long ago in the larger scheme of things. But it's amazing to read how much society has changed in those intervening decades. The main characters drink copiously, then drive; they chain-smoke; they do all this without suffering any overall societal disapproval.

More important, there's an almost eerie homogeneity revealed about the lives of the people who counted in the action then. There's none of the close-grained diversity we have come to think of as the hallmark of American society. In the opening pages of the book, husband and wife become part of a mass Labor Day exodus from New York City. Everyone is streaming northward on the highways to pick up children who were stowed out of the way for the summer at some generic "Camp Walla Walla." I was reminded of the setting for the movie "The Seven Year Itch" in which New York becomes almost a ghost town during the hot summer months, with children away at camp and a lot of parents tending to them there. But unlike "The Itch," this story is no comedy. It's deadly serious. The reader is soon plunged into taut speculation: Where's the killer? When will he appear? Or has he already appeared in an all-too-familiar form?

Mostly though, it's the heartfelt quality of the story's ending that makes it memorable and worthwhile, and that raises it above the run-of-the-mill thriller.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Pause That Horrified 18 Mar 2014
By Allen Smalling - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A typical middle-class couple from New York are on their way by car to pick up their kids from a Maine Summer camp. In that pre-Interstate Highway era, the husband impulsively pulls over to a roadside bar. The wife objects, and from this "petite deviation" a horror ensues. While French writer Georges Simenon is better remembered for his detective thrillers featuring Inspector Maigret, he was also well versed in the *durs* (tough) school of dark psychological fiction, noir in book form if you will. While this 1955 novel (originally published in France in 1953 as FEUX ROUGES) is not long, only 149 pp. of text, it is gripping and engrossing. Nothing is out of place, and the story gets very scary, very fast. With a brief but acute Introduction by Anita Brookner, RED LIGHTS is highly recommended.

Amazon amateur review ratings, noir in book form, 1955 (scale of 1-5):

After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson (1955) - 4.0 STARS
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955) - 4.2 STARS
Red Lights (New York Review Books Classics) by Georges Simenon (1955) - 4.3 STARS
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Hard Case 4 Oct 2007
By Michael Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was pleasantly surprised by this noir gem from NYRB classics. This was my first exposure to Simenon, the famously prolific creator of Inspector Maigret.
Red Lights is the story of a regular couple from New York, Steve and Nancy Hogan, who become fatefully entwined with Sid, a hardened criminal; a hard case. As they prepare to embark on a trip to retrieve their children from a Maine summer camp, Steve finds himself going where he calls "into the tunnel", an imaginary zone where he can shake out all his sillies (which means: consume a lot of rye whiskey). Unfortunately in the process, he loses Nancy, then proceeds to delve only deeper into the dark side of life.
***Spoilerphobes Beware***
Over the course of this short novel, in which there is a lot a drinking, driving, and overall criminal activity, the troubled couple lose each other, suffer a bit, and then finally find each other (in more than one way). This is all thanks to Sid, the escaped con, who I'm sure was happy to help.
I expect to read many more of these "romans dur", as Simenon liked to call them, since there are many other titles available now from NYRB Classics. Highly recommended especially to crime noir fans.
4.5 stars
What's not to like? 18 May 2013
By WeHo book lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You know his work. You love his work. You don't know his work, so you order this book on a whim, and now you love his work. More or less end of story. The insights into the dynamic of alcohol in a relationship are remarkable. This story is not just about the decisions we make, or even about the decsions we make when we are under the influence of alcohol. It is about the decisions we make after a long love affair with alcohol - the reckless choices that on the surface at first look kind of stupid, but they are far more (and worse) than stupid, and Simenon understands and illustrates this better than most writers,
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