As a UK-resident authority on American Noir, Woody Haut has long been a mainstay of Crime Time, both in its print incarnation and in its current online iteration. But his real claim to fame has been with such books as Neon Noir and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood, nigh-definitive studies of their subjects. This, however, is to overlook Haut’s own skills as a novelist, as evinced in the mesmerising Cry for a Nickel, Die for a Dime. After too long a hiatus, Haut is back again in that role with Days of Smoke, and the wait has been worthwhile. Los Angeles is a melting pot of militants, drugs and runaways in the aftermath of the summer of love, with the rifts caused in the fabric of society by the war in Vietnam still painful. Haut’s characters are two young lovers who have moved from the aftermath of a beneficent drug-assisted view of the world to a harsh new milieu of violent protest – with one particular act creating a terrible rupture. Haut’s prose is diamond-hard and astringent, perfectly at the service of his ambitious, committed narrative. It is a book to make one wish that Haut spent far more time in the world of fiction.
Days of Smoke by Woody Haut is published by Concord EPress