The only other book by Norman Spinrad I’ve read was his third, ‘Bug Jack Barron’ and I was somewhat confused by its title before reading, thinking it was about an insect than irritating a TV commentator to do something. Once read, although the Californian flippant dialogue jarred, I couldn’t doubt that Spinrad could write, although over the years, I didn’t see any of his other books over here.
Anyway, an opportunity to read his latest book, ‘The People’s Police’, came up was a chance to see what he was writing these days. Set in New Orleans, after the famous hurricane that flooded it and the recession that was getting the banks getting the police involved to evict people who couldn’t pay their mortgages. Thing is, this would also include the police officers evicting their own people. Before that, we follow the life of police officer Martin Luthor Martin and his rise through the ranks and by the machinations of others, initiates a police strike to stop this happening. Into this is also the election of a new mayor with a surprise win by MaryLou Boudreau aka Mama Legba, the current Voodoo Queen and local TV star with a perchance for sharing body time with various loas or spirits. Oddly, this is the only thing that would give this book a classification into our genre so you have to consider it a borderline book.
What does come out of this is the feeling that Spinrad has researched the area and giving a sample of life in New Orleans but with his own twist, which also has a big spoiler which messes up telling much more of the plot. Saying that, when the story follows Martin’s life closely in the first two-thirds of the book, he becomes more of an incidental character for the rest as Spinrad wants to capture the bigger picture.
Spinrad’s vivid imagery and dialogue is as sound as I remember it, together with much of the emotional intensity, even if he loses a crucial emotional beat reaction with the crucial spoiler. I do wonder if Spinrad really needs Science Fiction and just focus on the general genre but as he’s had a successful writing career, I doubt if he worries about that.
Don’t expect conventional Science Fiction but if you want to read a slice of life, this is a good example to try.
(pub: TOR/Forge. 284 page small hardback. Price: $27.99 (US), $38.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-8427-0)
check out websites: www.tor-forge.com and www.normanspinradatlarger.blogspot.com