Mon, Jun 22 2009 07:40 PM Posted By: Judith Martin-straw
The Kind One , the first published novel of screen writer Tom Epperson, is described on the cover as “A Thriller.” While there is plenty of blood and violence, as befits the story of the gangster scene of the 30’s, there is much more to this novel. Told through the voice of Danny Landon, the author evokes that bygone L.A. with visual images, bits of historical trivia, references to important figures, and descriptions of the neighborhoods, cars, nightlife and even synopses of popular movies.
The title of the novel, The Kind One , refers to Bud Seitz, the mobster who is Danny’s boss and patron. He is sarcastically referred to as “The Kind One” because he is actually quite cruel and sadistic. Danny is known as “Two-Gun Danny”, which also seems like a misnomer. Danny is soft-hearted and unable to commit the acts of violence demanded of him by the gang. Danny suffers from amnesia, a result of a beating with a lead pipe, and a major part of the story centers around his quest to re-discover himself. He is told stories of his past exploits by his colleagues in Bud’s “mob” but none of them ring true or seem to fit with how Danny views himself or reacts in tough situations. Ultimately, “The Kind One” more accurately describes Danny himself.
The characters are quirky yet flawed. Bud and his mobsters are given individual personalities and sometimes endearing characteristics. A sharp contrast is drawn between the violence of their existence and their personal relationships. Danny’s neighbors show us the other side of life in Los Angeles during that time period, and while they also have their problems, the bonds they forge carry them through the difficult phases of ensuing events. The relationships between Danny and his neighbors, Dulwich (who describes himself as a “scribbler”) and Sophie (the young girl in need of friends), is the most satisfying part of the story. Danny’s naivete charms the reader, and his self-awareness and process of maturation, as he sorts out a series of conflicted loyalties, is well-developed and realistic.
Some of the prose is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler, and in many parts the use of language conjures up striking images. “I had a thought, and I started to say something, but then the thought started to slip away, it was like a helium balloon a kid was holding by a string and then he let the string go and I watched it float away into the blue.” Another description, a page later, is less lovely but no less evocative. “His double-breasted suit was like a sausage casing that could barely contain its contents .” Description gives way to action in the later parts of the book, but the pictures painted in words in the early chapters help the reader to feel rooted in the time and place of the plot’s setting.
There’s violence, love, friendship, excitement, tension and realism in this novel. It holds your interest from the first page, and the interactions between the characters are intriguing. The Kind One is a satisfying example of L.A. noir literature and a window onto a past world.
© 2009 Culver City News