These two books are a pair, as are the two lead detectives–Bobby Sabbatini and Augustus Boyer. Boyer is a pothead private eye with a rock-star daughter. Sabbatini is, in Blizzard, a detective with the Minneapolis police. The “Blizzard” in that title refers not to a Minnesota snowstorm, but to a Thomas McGrath poem that reflects the protagonist’s state of mind and spirit.
Sabbatini, you see, has become not only enamored of poetry, but an evangelist. He’s on a mission to get everyone around him memorizing poetry with the idea that it will transform individual lives and eventually the world. If you’re an English major like me, you eventually get bummed at the number of names and lines you’ve never heard of. You feel like a poetic illiterate. Still, Bart Schneider picks good poetry, appropriate to the situation, so it’s not his fault.
Here’s a Creeley poem, for example (I’ve heard and read of Creeley, so it’s not him I’m talking about when I talk about illiteracy):
As I sd to my
friend, because I am always talking, –John, I
sd, which was not his name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big
car. . .
Believe me, it fits, and it brings a smile as so much of Augie’s narration does.
And, oh, the crimes. It’s right before the Republican convention, and a big right-to-life rally is planned. There’s a lot of big money involved and an enormous amount of hanky-panky with guns and violins and Nazi’s. Augie’s daughter’s a target of the extremists, which makes the whole thing very personal.
Then, by the time they get out of that one, we fast-forward to Nameless Dame, which Sabbatini has moved to my neck of the woods–Guerneville/Cazadero on the Russian River. Only he’s not a detective any more. He’s married a woman he met during the Minnesota investigation, had a kid, and wants to open a Karoake poetry bar, where people can come in and recite poems instead of singing country music or whatever.
Augie comes for a visit. A woman gets gunned down and lies there unidentified for a time. Now they have to solve that one as well as staving off a proposed casino and people who don’t want the bar to open. Enemies of art. In this one, Augie has taken to composing haiku–or at least haiku-like poems. He’s eschewed all the syllable counting, but he likes to encapsulate moments in verse:
The evidence slips like sand
through his hands.
the air is clear.
No suspect, no witness.
Once the ghosts stop
singing their damn songs
he’ll call it a day.
And thus it goes from one end of this entertaining and gritty narrative to the other. So, set up a bong and start turning pages. You’re guaranteed a trip you won’t forget.