"Naked Angel" by Joe R. Lansdale
To help promote the release of their highly-anticipated "interactive crime thriller," the folks at Rockstar Games have put together an original anthology, L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories. One of the contributors to the anthology is the legendary writer of dark crime novels, Joe R. Lansdale, hisownself.
"Naked Angel" hooks the reader from the get-go with a brilliant premise: the nude corpse of a beautiful young woman has been found encased in a block of ice left in a back alley. This bizarre murder links to a broader criminal conspiracy; matters are further complicated when the patrolman who discovered the victim realizes he once knew the woman and her family.
A master of the outrageous simile, Lansdale is perfectly suited to Chandleresque fiction (Take the following gonzo comparison from "Naked Angel" as a case in point: "After a long time a big man in a too-tight jacket came and answered the door. He looked like he could tie a knot in a fire-poker, eat it, and crap it out straight."). The author's knack for producing crackling dialogue is also readily apparent here, as seen in the following exchange between the local patrolman and a police detective called to the crime scene:
Coats nodded. "I couldn't figure if this was murder, vice, or God dropped an ice cube."
"Lots of guys would have liked to have put this baby in their tea," Galloway said.
The ice had begun to melt a little, and the angel had shifted.
Galloway studied the body and said, "She probably didn't climb in that ice all by herself, so I think murder will cover it."The brevity of the story stifles its air of mystery (a limited number of characters means limited suspects), but "Naked Angel" expertly captures the seedy, sultry atmosphere of 1940's Los Angeles. Fans of Lansdale's crime fiction will not want to miss this offering.
"Naked Angel" is available for free online reading here. The L.A. Noire anthology (which also includes stories by Megan Abbot, Lawrence Block, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Jonathan Santlofer, Duane Swierczynski, and Andrew Vachss) will be published in e-book format on June 6th.