Sunday, September 08, 2013

REVIEW: Dialogues of a Crime

Title: Dialogues of a Crime

Author: John K. Manos
Genre: novel
Price: $4.95 (ebook) / $13.70 (paperback)
Publisher: Amika Press
ASN: 978-1937484132
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Dialogues of a Crime is an interesting book.  It’s billed as “examine[ing] guilt, innocence and the long-term ramifications of crime and punishment in a gray area where the personal lives of perpetrators, victims and law officers overlap.”  That may make it sound like a crime novel or mystery, but it is neither of those.

The story starts with a man being thrown off of a roof, and then goes to 1972, where Michael Pollitz, a nineteen-year-old college student, is being arrested in his dorm.  Due to poor legal help, Michael ends up in prison, where he is brutally and graphically raped.  He has a personal friendship with a Chicago mobster, and asks that the Mob kill his attackers.  The story then picks up in 1994, with Chicago PD detective Larry Klinger investigating a tip that a mobster ordered a hit on two convicts.  We soon discover that the convicts in question are Pollitz’s attackers.

As I said, no real mystery to solve.  The plot, then is whether or not Pollitz will give up his mobster friend, with a side plot of Klinger trying to decide if justice would even be served by forcing the issue.  The book really is dialogues – the only action sequence is the rape, and sensitive readers are advised that it’s portrayed graphically.

At 300 pages, the novel is a fairly quick read, and generally well-written.  John Manos, the author, has what I found to be a somewhat irritating narrative voice, and is fond of telling us what people will be thinking later.  He also tends to “hop heads” – jumping from one character to another’s POV within the same scene.

Having said that, I found these flaws minor.  The story works on its own terms as a discussion of crime, morality, and loyalty to family and friends.  It’s definitely not something one would see from a large press; rather it is the type of material that can only be found from small and independent operations.



Bob G said...

I agree with much of Chris’s review, but I think the cover copy suggests that Dialogues of a Crime is more than a crime novel, and it certainly isn’t a mystery and doesn’t try to be. Crime and Punishment isn’t only a crime novel either.

I didn’t notice the issue of jumping POV, but if it’s there, it’s minor as Chris points out. And Chris gets the point of the book and precisely sums it up with “the story works on its own terms as a discussion of crime, morality, and loyalty to family and friends.”

Anonymous said...

I also like this review, although I am not sure I noticed the narrative voice and that, to me, is a good thing.

One additional point about this novel is that it has some very intriguing aspects that tend to generate discussion.

For example, I was discussing this in email with a couple of friends -Jim and Margaret - and we had this exchange.

By the way, the 'Jan' I refer to is my wife. Here is a comment I made and a comment each by Jim and Margaret:

I had said:

I gave a copy to one of Jan’s friends, an inveterate reader, and she liked it very much but was confused about what happened in the last two chapters. Jan and I were both not at all confused, so Jan is going to explain the finale to her buddy. (Jan just got back Saturday from a trip to Chicago)

I still think there is more to Pollitz than quickly meets the eye. I believe it is > 50/50 that he personally was involved in taking revenge for the murder of his friend (whose murder we learn about in, if I recall, the last chapter).

Jim wrote:

I too did not find the narrative voice irritating, but then I do not think in terms of "narrative voice" so the subject did not occur to me. The book did not read like the John Manos I've known all these years was speaking personally.

The reviewer was correct in not calling it a traditional mystery - the title says it clearly, it's a discussion of a crime.

I think that it is somewhat ambiguous as to whether the Pollitz character even gave the final go-ahead to have the rapists murdered, though he probably did. It's possible the prison guards did it; the murders were on the spectacular side for pros and paralleled Michael's threats too closely (which came back to bite Michael's butt many years later).

On the other hand Michael, though "normal" before prison, was not completely what he appeared to be in later years. Witness what his ex-wife thought of him, at odds with how he presents himself to Klinger. And the screaming baiting of a mobster in a restaurant near the end of the book. Klinger in his loneliness for intelligent conversation allows himself to overlook Michael's darkness.

Dom is an idealized father figure and good in some ways. Klinger and his girlfriend are the story's only heroes, and at least Klinger gets to reach over the mound of her to turn off the light.

Margaret wrote:

Gee I don't think Michael Pollitz is a killer! the whole thing is about morality & ethics, loyalty and love. he's a loyal friend but I don't see him involved in killing.

I remember thinking that the ending was a really perfect resolution, but now Laura's got the book, and she's in another city, and I can't check -- just to try to understand what people find unresolved.

And so on. Interesting novel and very well written.

Joel Grant (on 9/21/2013)

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Teena in Toronto said...

I enjoyed this book.