Review of The Killer Detective Novelist, by Lynne Davis
If you understand the premise of Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” in which the poet renounces Death itself as an entity that shall never hold dominion over any immortal soul, then you should have no problem understanding its antithesis in Puckett’s metafictional novel THE KILLER DETECTIVE NOVELIST. At the spartan length of 116 pages, it’s a thin book thick with mayhem, mystery — and a county morgue’s worth of an almost laughable nihilism. Antisocial antihero “Mack Harris”, an NYC homicide detective, moves ghostlike through a landscape of sleazy bars, dingy apartments, and crime scenes, a cool customer detached from the horrors of his occupation, albeit one that brings him a degree of grim pleasure. In fact, dead people are the only ones he respects, while having nothing but disgust for the living, including French model/girlfriend Chloe, and, most of all, himself (at one point real-life author MDP actually makes a walk-on appearance). At first some readers may find this “unreliable third-person narrative” confusing: a character known only as “the novelist” that follows the detective around town may only exist in Mack’s alcoholic imagination, or worse, as some schizophrenic ideation — or vice versa! I’ll eschew the hackneyed term “experimental novel” only to say that Mark Damon Puckett is indeed a very brave writer, extremely original, his creations sometimes teetering on the brink of psychosis. In his latest book Puckett abandons many of the tropes of Noir fiction (except jazz, booze, sucker punches, a sexy dame, and a slangy synecdoche here and there), but otherwise adopts an edgy Modernism whose maxim “Make It New!”, which was expounded by Ezra Pound nearly a century ago in a revolt against the arts establishment, is paid homage in the unsparing prose of this terse little volume. Armed with a dry sense of humor as arid as an Arizona attic in August, Puckett is still a serious wordsmith who gives no quarter to those of limited vocabularies, displaying a lexicon that rivals Cormac McCarthy’s, so keep your dictionary at the ready. Besides being a thoroughly unique stylist and master of the absurd, I’ll bet Mr. Puckett’s one helluva Scrabble player, too.