James Sallis, Eye of the Cricket
This is the fourth Lew Griffin mystery; Griffin is as fully-rounded and flawed a character as any in crime fiction. He is a black detective and works in the melting-pot of New Orleans. The Griffin books were for a while one of the best-kept secrets of American noir fiction.
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James Sallis began the Lew Griffin series with Black Hornet in 1997 (“a walk on Louisiana’s wild side” said Kirkus reviews). He began a series that takes it cue from the detectives of yesteryear – the Travis McGee’s etc – and makes the material is own. Hard, original, fluent and full of illusions of the cultural media, whether musical, pulp, addictions of one kind or another, and the literary stuff. Sallis joins the pulps to the modern novel like no other writer. Are the books hard to read. No not at all. But don’t look for pegs like a narrative story or an ending. You’ll find other rewards in a Griffin novel.
Plotline: Lew Griffin is a survivor, a black man in New Orleans, a detective, a teacher, a writer. Having spent years finding others, he has lost his son…and himself in the process. Now a derelict has appeared in a New Orleans hospital claiming to be Lewis Griffin and displaying a copy of one of Lew’s novels. It is the beginning of a quest that will take Griffin into his own past while he tries to deal in the present with a search for three missing young men.
James Sallis is doing some of the most interesting and provocative work in private eye fiction, to paraphrase Lawrence Block. He is often compared to Walter Mosley but the Griffin character does not have the easy charm, and I guess he turns up the heat a few more notches. Sallis is a much respected critic as well as a musician and biographer. The talented mystery writer Walter Satterthwait provides the appreciation to this edition.