Friday, February 20, 2015
Review of The Day the Music Died by Ed Gorman (Berkeley, 1999)
The Day the Music Died is a P.I. novel set in a small Iowa town in the late 1950s and is the first book in the Sam McCain series. In many ways it is the mirror of the typical hardboiled P.I. tale set in a big city. McCain is smart, pleasant and good, lacking physical presence and menace, and is unlucky in love. Black River Falls is a small, conservative town run by a handful of families, where everyone seems to know everyone. The story revolves around an apparent murder-suicide. It’s a strong hook, but after opening the story lacks impetus and tension until near the end despite the various rivalries and the themes of race and abortion subverting the conservative values of small town America. The sense of place and characters also seemed a little one-dimensional, and it was a mystery to me as to why McCain was mooning over Pamela, when he clearly had more affection for both Mary and his beatnik lover. Where Gorman did hit the mark was with the sense of time and culture, evoking the music, and race and class politics of the mid-west in the 1950s. Overall, a pleasant enough read and a nice twist on the typical P.I. tale.