Review by Ian Keogh
The beauty of David Lapham’s system of skimming about the 1980s for his stories means that characters whose eventual fate has already been revealed can still return, and such is the case with the opening pairing of Spanish Scott and Joey. Scott takes some time off enforcing for Harry to babysit for his sister, and under the pretence of declaring timid ten year old Joey should learn to be a man, begins by taking him to a bar so Scott can play pool. That progresses into one of the best mini-dramas of the entire series. It’s tasteless, violent and brilliant, a hilarious look into 1980s lowlifes, yet also poignant and heartbreaking, which is a trick Lapham so regularly pulls off.
Los Angeles in 1985 is where the majority of the book is set, and it’s a harrowing piece that more than lives up to the title. Beth and Ginny/Amy live together as sisters, Harry has sent Monster to retrieve his stolen cocaine, and Beth’s monumental talent for manipulating a situation to her advantage is required on several occasions. It’s Ginny, however, who’s the heart of this sequence. She barely appears directly for two chapters, but hangs over them like a shroud as Lapham extends the story tension superbly following a horrific event. Equally impressive is the seamless way Lapham works in most of the characters spotlighted in individual chapters during Other People. As is his method, Lapham doesn’t tell the story in linear fashion, and it’s only in the penultimate chapter that we come to absorb the full grim circumstances.
Contrast as a theme is something Lapham exploits so well. Dark Days is set in Los Angeles, possibly the brightest city on the planet. Ginny’s fantasies as Amy Racecar contrast the experiences of her own life. A sordid criminal’s dying pose resembles the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian in religious iconography. Most disturbingly, there’s the contrast between what most people know they should do, and what they actually do, and that’s pretty much Stray Bullets summed up in a sentence.
We are resolutely back in crime territory with Dark Days, although that’s shored up with David Lapham’s incredible instinct for drama, horror and tension. The writing is wonderful and the art is wonderful. Next is Hi-Jinks and Derring-Do, or alternatively the entire series can be purchased as one massive paperback as the Uber Alles Edition.