There’s something of a feel of pulp about this well-crafted
and well-written crime/wartime thriller.
With its cast of an abused teenage runaway rock star, a vicious
Vietnamese gangster, corrupt cops, a sleazy senator and a warzone murder
cover-up and conspiracy, the ingredients are definitely there for the tangled narrative
you would expect from noir fiction – of course, they must be connected, but
there are generally two separate storylines going on across the anthology. And connected well they are, by a
hardworking, very serious professional author.
Set in a tense and simmering 1968, against the backdrop of a
Vietnam war which was very real for some, and significant growing racial
tensions following the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King,
there is a sadness to young Gloria’s desire to cling to the previous year’s
summer of love, which by now must feel like a fake dream – a year after the
events in this book, Manson would help put the illusion to bed once and for
all. What we are therefore left with is
the anger, heartache, sadness and tension, mixed together in a superb pulp
thriller melting pot to create a dark, creative stew.
I did feel that perhaps some of the points were laboured a
little – the abuse Gloria suffered; her continually asserting her racial
identity – and this helped contribute to what felt like a long book. To be honest, it feels as if the theme of
racial inequality is the fundamental one underlying all strands. There was also a lot of dialogue, which could
have been dispensed with; I would even go as far as to suggest that as much as
a quarter of this book’s content could easily be trimmed to lower the word count,
and it would certainly take nothing away.
A great read, raw at times and rough at others, Sunshine
Blues really makes you feel in the time that it is set – this one of the most
interesting years in America’s recent history.
In : Book Reviews