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The worst novelist in Britain?,
This review is from: Night Train (Paperback)
I invite anyone new to this ersatz crime novel, or indeed anyone new to M Amis, to read its first page, or the quotes in Amazon`s synopsis for that matter. If you are not irritated by his pretentiousness, or frustrated by his usual inability to compose a natural sentence - then by all means read on.
Martin`s dad once said, regarding his son`s style of writing (which he didn`t think much of) something like: `If only he would occasionally write a simple sentence such as "They finished their drinks and left".` Oh, if only. No, Amis fils will never stoop to write such a hackneyed sentence, it would be beneath him. In his obsessive avoidance of cliche - about which he`s written at tedious length - he avoids the human, the humbly mundane, and those epiphanic moments every writer worth the name strives for, since in his obsession he merely ends up sounding laughably self-conscious and terminally artificial.
You could make a case for saying he is, in effect, no better a writer than, say, Jeffrey Archer. The difference is that Archer writes as well as he knows how (and I am no fan, believe me) whereas Amis could presumably write much better than he does if he wished to. Or could he...? There`s the rub.
If you want further proof of this drastically overrated author, read the `Prelude` to his novel London Fields, at the close of which he repeats the name of the novel three - three! - times in a row, for no evident reason other than his inability to exercise restraint. It`s a kind of classy pornography (in the broader sense of the word) but no less insidious than that of the less classy J Archer or Dan Brown. Or try the opening sentence of The Information, with that "...I feel..." yet one more indication that Amis is incapable of getting out of the way of his fiction and allowing it to speak for itself.
Or simply try and get through Yellow Dog.
Amis is, as I am, a big fan of good US crime thrillers, in particular the great Elmore Leonard, and I daresay he wrote this absurdity partly in tribute. But the opening passage - in which we are introduced to the pointlessly named Mike Hoolihan (who, as narrator, needs therefore to explain to we poor, captive readers of the whimsical yet oddly humourless Amis that she is in fact - gasp! - a woman) and her assertion `I am a police`, left me wondering what on earth Amis was trying to do, achieve, or prove. He always does this: sets up literary "tricks" for his readers, as if we can`t be trusted with a narrative that runs too smoothly. So he puts obstacles in our path, for no other reason than his addiction to avoiding cliche. As I say, he only ends up avoiding the very stuff of life, and rendering at least one reader incapable of tolerating any more of the man`s self-obsessed, smug, attitudinising phrase-making. Oh, and I need hardly say that, having read a huge number of crime novels, including many from the States, I have never once come across the term "a police". It may well exist, but trust Amis to dig it up from its arcane obscurity.
So, I say: