Sunday, August 08, 2010

Why Thomas L. Cook Reigns Supreme

When I started reading Thomas L. Cook's THE LAST TALK WITH LOLA FAYE, I thought, slightly disappointed, "Oh, the action is all going to take place in one hotel bar."

Then I kept reading, and the suspense layered on, and I thought excitedly, The action is all going to take place in one hotel bar!

Such is Cook's control: he can take a relatively mundane setting like a St. Louis hotel and make it a place of growing tension, of intriguing revelation, of horrifying possibilities. And LOLA FAYE, like the other Cook novels I've read, is everyday life laced with potential menace.

At the root of a story is the murder that binds Lucas Page and Lola Faye Gilroy together, and though the crime happened in the distant past, one chance meeting makes the details come back with surprising new dimensions.

When I interviewed Thomas L. Cook at the end of 2009, he spoke of his fiction as opposed to his non-fiction, suggesting that the latter "freed [one] from the very different rigors of the imagination." But it is Cook's imagination which rules the mystery world, because he writes not only about crime, but about the many dimensions of the people who commit them and the victims who suffer them. In his poetic prose one can read Cook's sympathy for flawed humanity even as his story proves that people can be nothing but flawed.

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