Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Face on the Cutting Room Floor
Just a quick note today, to recommend a book you'll have trouble getting unless you're willing to skirt the legal limits of copyright law. (And this provides a great example of what's wrong with current copyright law, but that's a subject for another time.) The book in question is a noir crime thriller/mystery called "The Face on the Cutting Room Floor," by Cameron McCabe.
The title refers to the legendary (and very real) practice of cutting an actor out of a film during the editing process. For the purposes of this book, however, the title has multiple layers of meaning -- it refers not only to the apparent victim, but to the protagonist, and, in a meta-sense, to the author of the book as well. This is a complex, fascinating novel, one of the original noir novels that had such a tremendous influence on crime films in the 40s and 50s. It's also a fun read, as you follow the main character -- Cameron McCabe, the narrator and ostensible author of the book -- during the investigation of the death of a young starlet, the proverbial "face on the cutting room floor." The prose and dialog is taut, heavily influenced by writers as varied as Hammett and Hemingway, and the plot is a mind-bender. Plot twists layered on plot twists, ironies on top of ironies, and an ending that leaves you satisfied -- but with almost none of your questions answered.
Unfortunately, "Face" is out of print, and has been for over twenty years. Penguin published the most recent edition in 1986. So, if you want to read this book (and I really recommend you do), you'll have to pick it up as an unauthorized ebook (or try to find it in a library). Either way, read this book. Read it now.