October 7, 2011

The Cool Dead

Back in September, I mentioned Warren Miller's 1959 novel, The Cool World. It's long out of print, but my university library dug their 1st Edition copy from the vaults. I got it a couple weeks ago and it's a surprisingly beautiful copy: light-blue hardback, title written in hep-cool-kat font, spine's sharp and switchblade straight.

Been considering writing an essay connecting Miller's The Cool World with Shane Steven's Go Down Dead. Both novels share a similiar premise and structure. Both novels are written by white authors about the "black experience" in Harlem. But more importantly to me, each book is social commentary hidden in crime fiction's bloody clothing.


Still from 1964 film version. Never released on DVD.
 Nearly finished with Cool and it hasn't disappointed. It's an engaging book with excellent pacing. Miller manages to switch between plot-chapter and memory-chapter without bogging the narrative. He's an excellent prose stylist. Writing Cool from the point of view of a young and poorly education gang member, he crafts a language that feels "real" and "street" and "urban," but still approachable and understandable and shockingly poetic.

If Cool trumps Dead, it's the prose...

I've already filed a request for another novel by Miller: The Siege of Harlem.




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