For me the great benefit of collaboration is not so much that it challenges some punching bag of the isolated artist but that it means, when I respond right, that I've doubled my chances of seeing more work done independently by the authors. In some cases my chances are more than doubled -- like who didn't use Legend as a map or a "legend" for what else to read by those five guy poets? (Or the opposite reaction might have been true for some readers, i.e. this was a group to avoid further reading.) The only frustrating part is when one side of the collaboration is less well published, not as easy to locate at a moment's notice, or simply quieter, like the social dynamics in lot of marriages. For example Busted by Nancy Shaw and Catriona Strang came out five years ago, and I am still trying to track down more work by Strang, who doesn't even have a bio on the website for Coach House Books.

This week I've had better luck with Ken Bruen and Jason Starr's collaboration on the crime novel Bust (which is unrelated to Busted). If you've read this blog for long then you know that I am a fan of Bruen, whose crime novels and urban police procedurals are set in Galway and London. Now I'm glad to be introduced to Starr, who is closer to my age and who is the American half of this book. He's also fairly prolific.

This book itself is about a dot com millionaire named Max Fisher who hires an IRA wannabe to murder his wife. Fisher is not a young hipster, like the standard image of a techie professional, but an out of shape sleazebag who is sleeping with his secretary and who insists on taking all his clients to strip clubs. In fact he decides that the best way to have an alibi is to have witnesses testify that he was receiving a lap dance at the time of the murder. The plans naturally go astray, and the violent twists and turns near the end of the book leave a lasting impression. For one thing I will never leave a bottle of Drano in the house from this point forward.

The most interesting character in the book is Bobby Rosa, a former criminal who can't rob stores anymore because of a gunshot wound that left him paralyzed from the waist down. If he had a regular job, then he might be protected by the ADA, but criminals can't ask the government to protect their right to lead a life of crime. This is really an unfair situation, so it's gratifying to see Rosa get the upper hand on Fisher and the other able-bodied characters.

It's easy to see what parts of the collaboration come from Bruen: the ubiquitous talk of Ireland, the constant drinking, and certain prose devices, like the occasional list that runs down the page. At first I thought the idea of having a nuevo rich character from the tech boom of the 90s might come from Bruen. In his recent Galway novels the hard-drinking protagonist Jack Taylor can hardly recognize his usual stomping ground because of all the glitzy young professionals. But it seems Starr is more responsible for this contribution, as I quickly saw after starting his book Hard Feelings late last night. And at first glance I think it's right that people are calling him a modern-day Jim Thompson, except instead of smalltown deputies or sheriffs who go all psycho, we have professionals who could work at AOL or Microsoft.

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