Verdict: Frank McGee’s superb novel, WAITING FOR FRIDAY, is a compelling read that combines the preciseness of investigative journalism with a heavy dose of noir.
When Alan Moore’s much-praised Watchmen came out in 1985, the author enriched the graphic novel genre with the pseudo-realism of diaries and interviews. The result was pioneering. Superheroes, previously regarded as hopelessly one-dimensional and vapid, now had several dimensions added to them, via not only “first-person” back stories, but also through the application of psychology, sexuality and politics. No longer were they impossibly noble, but were instead conflicted, damaged, perverse and even fascist.
McGee achieves the same effect in his superb novelistic depiction of a “cold case” murder in a sleepy small town in 1942 California. He takes a leaf from Raymond Chandler, the latter of whom took what many in 1940s America regarded as a West Coast “paradise”, and shows California to be as corrupt and homicidal as Capone-era Chicago. Like Chandler, he achieves a haunting effect by “revisiting” a murder hip-deep in noir.
In the 1920s-1940s, California was considered the place to go when one had run out of luck in their present location. From Okies to beauty contest winners to writers desperately in need of cash, California was considered a sun-glazed paradise of second chances. In this the state was aided by movie moguls who, movie star debaucheries to the contrary, peddled a version of solid patriotism and democratic fairness (this was quite a feat considering that in the 1930s, Los Angeles was considered to have the most corrupt police force in the country; who often were used by studios as strike-breakers).
But McGee enhances the effect of sun-drenched corruption by showing that the small town family values of the “Greatest Generation” are a sham, and beneath them lurks brutal rapes and murders and the horrors of pre-frontal lobotomies. Like Chandler’s Los Angeles, the pillars of the community in McGee’s “Our Town” setting are corrupt and sinister and “own” the police.
All in all McGee’s novel combines the preciseness of investigative journalism with a heavy dose of noir. The result is a compelling read that is The Front Page meets The Maltese Falcon. Readers who enjoy the investigative journalism genre and the hardboiled will be hooked from beginning to end.
~Ron Capshaw for IndieReader