Friday, August 16, 2013

"Rake" Made Me Laugh

As I was reading Scott Phillips's new dark comic novel Rake with great enjoyment, I had the thought that he was channeling the late great Charles Willeford. Phillips's blithe psychopathic protagonist seems especially reminiscent of Willeford's Richard Hudson (in The Woman Chaser). Both men are violent, womanizers, and determined to make a movie.

And sure enough, Phillips notes the influence of Willeford (and Highsmith) in this nice little L.A. Times interview: "Scott Philips Talks About his Novel 'Rake.'" If you like the offbeat, amoral humor of Willeford, you'll like Phillips's writing, too.

Rake is narrated by an unnamed American actor -- the star of a soap opera that has taken off in France -- as he traipses around Paris, signing autographs, bedding women, beating up wayward youth, and seeking financing for his movie. Even as he becomes embroiled in various criminal activities, he keeps chasing tail, working crossword puzzles, and getting a good night's sleep. Phillips continually mines humor from his protagonist's libido and insouciance. As a side note, the book is also a sort of love letter to Paris (Phillips lived in France for a time).

Rake is more of a lark than Phillips's previous work, The Adjustment (follow link for my review of that). I hope his writing doesn't become too madcap, but then, Phillips is pretty damn funny.

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