Monday, August 10, 2015

A Cry of Shadows [forgotten book]

There's no clue in A Cry of Shadows that Jack Dwyer would not be back. No hint his strangest and most engrossing mystery would be his last—the last one he solves, anyway. The biggest mystery, his disappearance, remains to this day.

It's been a quarter century since Dwyer, the cop who went private so he could pursue an acting career, went the way of Amelia Earhart. His creator, Ed Gorman, was at the top of his game. A Cry of Shadows was the fifth Jack Dwyer novel in Gorman's debut crime series. It won the admiration of top writers in the genre:

Road to Perdition author Max Allan Collins: “A Cry of Shadows is a brave, sad novel that will both move and shock readers. In a genre awash with trendy, yuppie private eyes, Jack Dwyer is a convincing man of the people.”

Loren D. Estleman: “A Cry of Shadows bears echoes of the early John D. MacDonald. Ed Gorman's lean prose and deep compassion set his books apart from everything else in the genre.”

Bill Pronzini: “Gorman at his most daring—a detective novel that is also a novel of character, social conscience and quiet horror.”

I agree with everything these guys said. As for F. Paul Wilson's prediction when it came out in 1990 that A Cry of Shadows “will touch you as deeply as anything you'll read this year,” it touched me as deeply as anything I've read in recent memory. It's out of print. I first read it last night, thanks to the Internet and people who sell used books.

I'd already read the first four Jack Dwyer mysteries on my laptop. Gordian Knot Books recently reissued them on Kindle. The first four, along with Gorman's debut crime novel, Rough Cut, which Gordian Knot mistakenly calls the first Jack Dwyer mystery. I can understand the mistake, as the protagonist, Michael Ketchum, is clearly Jack Dwyer trapped in an advertising executive's body, which Gorman clearly recognized at some point, releasing him to be himself in the subsequent Dwyer novels. But that Gordian Knot has failed to reissue A Cry of Shadows—the last and best of the series—is the bigger mistake. Fortunately, with the ease and speed of ebook publishing, it should be easily correctable. As it is, my St. Martin's Press first edition of A Cry of Shadows, originally owned by the Peters Township Library in McMurray, PA, will some day be a valuable collectible.

About the novel? The story? Jack Dwyer's final case? Rather than try to rewrite whomever wrote the fine jacket flap teaser—I'm guessing Ed Gorman himself--I'll simply give you a little of that evocative prose:

It is Christmastime. Inside the fashionable Avanti nightclub, the young, rich, and self-indulgent patrons celebrate with fine, exotic cuisine and the best champagne amid warm and inviting surroundings. Outside, in the bitter cold, shadowy derelicts beg for scraps of food, sleep where and when they can, and live out their existences in bleak anonymity.

Two worlds in seeming opposition: one full of light and warmth and pleasure, the other full of darkness and cold and misery. Yet something connects them. Something deadly.

Jack Dwyer may be gone for good, but he's left us with some haunting memories, A Cry of Shadows the most haunting of all.

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