By the Balls

I so, so much wanted to be able to say this book was so bad it was good. But actually, it was so bad it was kind of mediocre.

By the Balls by “Dashiell Loveless” (a pseudonym for Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender) is packaged beautifully. The cover is a gorgeous re-do of the old Dell “keyhole” paperbacks — you could hardly spot the difference, except for the price. And it’s a spoof of every hard-boiled mystery ever written. Unfortunately, what’s between the covers doesn’t live up to what’s on them. It only mostly works as a spoof, kind of makes it to hard-boiled status, and scarcely works as a mystery at all.

Ben Drake is a private investigator. His boss, Hal, gives him a murder case:  Gentleman Joe Biggs, one of the bowling elite of Testacy City (no, not kidding) has had his head crushed between two bowling balls, and Biggs’s mother wants to know why. Drake drifts from one witness or suspect to another, drinking bourbon most of the time (Testacy City is definitely not safe with this man behind the wheel) and finding out almost nothing until the final clue is literally dropped in his lap. The dialogue is repetitive and flaccid. There are a few funny lines (“There’s nothing like a mourning widow. And [she] was nothing like a mourning widow. More like a morning window, and I could see right through her.” — hardly deathless, but funny) but for the most part it’s pretty tired. The constant mentions of smoking, drinking, and negligées give more of a sense that the authors are trying to be transgressive than that something really wicked or hard-bitten is going on. And the plot… while I don’t require much from a hard-boiled plot (see, for instance, most of Chandler), there was certainly no way you could figure this one out as you read, if that’s important to you. It gave me a couple of chuckles, and it wasn’t so bad I couldn’t finish it, but that’s the most I can say for it.

I know you’re wondering why I read this. It was for my book club. We eat at a different place each time we meet, usually somewhere suited to the book we’re reading, and this time someone suggested we all go bowling together, so of course we had to read a bowling mystery. The things I do to socialize with book people! Have you read anything really flaming awful for a book club, or, on the contrary, anything truly wonderful that otherwise you wouldn’t have tried?

This entry was posted in Fiction, Mysteries/Crime. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to By the Balls

  1. bookmagic says:

    I hate when books are disappointing.

    I really want to be in a real-life book club but it always ends up that no one talks about the books. I like to discuss the books!
    I never have read a bowling mystery before…

    • Jenny says:

      Well, in our book club we usually wind up discussing the book for about half an hour and then Life for the rest of the time. It’s okay with me. I have to be social sometime! And if I never read another bowling mystery, that will be okay too.

  2. Kristen M. says:

    This sounds like the same reaction that I would have to a book like this — wanting it to be so bad it’s good. Oh well!

    • Jenny says:

      Oh well indeed. You can’t win them all. And next year’s lineup for the book club looks very promising so far.

  3. I always want to join a book club, but I haven’t been able to find one, especially not one that would read things I’d actually be interested in. Maybe one day I’ll start a lesbian book club.

    • Jenny says:

      Would it be a book club for lesbians, or books by lesbians, or books about lesbians? Either way sounds good!

  4. Emily says:

    This review made me laugh – oh, I HAVE read terrible books for book groups! Plus some books that were OK but not my cup of tea. But one was so terrible that I could barely finish it, yet I’ve always stopped short of naming it because I joined the group as a favor to a very dear friend who was trying to get a group started, and everyone else loved it. Oh, it was awful, though. Terrible flat writing, anachronistic historical romance elements…man. The things we do for our friends. :-)

    • Jenny says:

      Now you’ve made me curious, Emily. Come on. No one will find you here. Tell Aunty Jenny all about it…

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