Epitaph for a Tramp by David Markson

Epitaph for a Tramp & Epitaph for a Dead Beat: The Harry Fannin Detective NovelsEpitaph for a Tramp & Epitaph for a Dead Beat: The Harry Fannin Detective Novels by David Markson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raymond Chandler lives! Or one might have thought so in 1959 when Markson wrote this remarkable novel (published the same year Chandler died, ironically). I’ve only read Epitaph for a Tramp. I’m saving the second one for dessert. Harry Fannin is a tough, sardonic, New York private eye. One night his ex-wife, a beauty and a beast (the tramp in the title), shows up knocking on his door. By the time he opens it, she lay dead, a trail of blood leading from the sidewalk. Harry calls Brannigan, an archetypal burly, cigar-chewing city cop. Together they set out into the night to chase leads until the murder is solved.

The style is classic 30’s despite the two decade gap. Cigarettes, booze, and the crunch of fists on faces abound. Markson never uses a simple declarative sentence when he has a pithy metaphor or simile in his quiver. Or three. It’s more noir than a black cat in a coal mine.

I thought this was absolutely terrific, but it is something of an acquired taste. Read at your own risk. If you become addicted, don’t blame me.

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