It’s the year 2000 and 78-year-old Mickey O’Rourke has been a Los Angeles PI for a very long time. He’d thought he’d seen it all until the disappearance of porn star Jeffrey Strokes sends him from the sex-filled studios of the San Fernando Valley to the desperate streets of Compton where Mickey’s final case becomes his biggest test.
Flash back to 1998 and struggling hair salon employee Jemeka Johnson, suspecting boyfriend Ray-Ray of infidelity, follows him one night from their East Compton home to what turns out to be a drug deal gone sour where a twist of fate finds Jemeka tossed onto a dark and dangerous path—one that offers huge reward for someone bold enough to seize it.
Meanwhile, in 1999, tired of robbing small-town diners and shooting bad dope in filthy motel rooms, newlyweds Richie and Alabama return to LA in search of the perfect score.
Paths cross and past meets present as bad decisions hurtle toward worse consequences—and no one will ever be the same. (Synopsis courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)
I reviewed Philip Elliott’s debut novel ‘Nobody Move’ when it came out in 2019. At the time, I described it as “a love letter to the crime thriller movies of the 90s and is packed with enough sleazy motels, 80s punk rock and characters making questionable life choices to make you want to ask, “Whose chopper iz dis?’”
It was one of those slow burning books for me. When I had begun it, I had been sampling the movie references like a wine connoisseur ticks off flavour notes on the tongue: there’s a Heat, here comes a Reservoir Dogs. Do I detect a soupcon of Jackie Brown? I do. Notes of Pulp Fiction laced with The Godfather, Baby Driver, No Country for Old Men and Get Shorty? It arrives on the tongue with gusto.
It is then interesting to read the second in Eliott’s Angel City series which also arrives with a Pulp Fiction-esque series of disparate storylines swirling and coalescing around the same milieu of pimps and whores and drug deals gone wrong.
What is also clear is that Eliott has also taken the time to really continue building his craft. What ‘Nobody Move’ did so well was make you care about the characters once you got past the movie spotting tapestry game. What ‘Porno Valley’ does here is subtler – it is an initially slower moving novel which swirls to a crescendo – and takes the time to reflect on the effect of poverty and violence on these communities.
I’m not going to lie: for all the slick dialogue, believable bathetic characters and evocative setting, especially early in the novel, I did find the three timelines a little hard to keep track of at times. However, the characters are so visceral that it is better to just let the story sweep you along and let all be revealed in the fullness of time.
In short, this is an excellent read from a writer brimming with confidence and with something to say. The continuation of the Angel City series is becoming a highlight of the literary calendar for me and I look forward to following Eliott’s progress with interest.
It you want to read an exclusive extract from ‘Porno Valley’, selected by the author, you can find it here: Extract
Philip Elliott’s debut novel ‘Nobody Move’ won Best First Novel in the Arthur Ellis Awards. Follow-up Porno Valley is out in August, 2021. Feature-film screenplay The Bad Informant is currently in development with Passage Pictures. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Philip lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and spoiled pug where he is never not listening to rock ’n’ roll. (Biography courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)
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