Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Big Clock [1946]

The Big Clock was a rare moment of literary and commercial success for the self-destructive poet and writer, Kenneth Fearing. A taut, suspenseful, innovatively structured and ingeniously plotted crime thriller, the book can be noted as not just a fine example of noir literature, but also a sly commentary on big business and the manipulative nature of media. The chief protagonist of the novel is a man named George Stroud, a successful executive in a large media corporation. He is smart, intelligent, and has a nice family; he’s also a serial womanizer, has a strong penchant for alcohol, and is flexible with his scruples. In keeping with his nature, he ends up having an affair with the strikingly attractive mistress of his megalomaniac boss who in turn ends up murdering her in a fit of rage. And, in an delightful ironic plot development, George is assigned the task of finding out, well, himself, and with carte blanche in terms of resources. The majority of the storyline, therefore, deals with the engaging game of one-upmanship that he needs to play in order stay a step ahead of those around him. In another smart, albeit tad flawed, creative decision, the first-person narrative kept shifting from one character to another, which helped in providing voyeuristic peeks into how various characters, both primary and secondary, react to the incident and how they view one another. For most parts, though, the story is told from George’s wry, jaded and cynical point of view, and those were the parts I found most captivating. Though it never reached the kind of explosiveness as exemplified by the best of hardboiled crime fiction, it had a distinctive character of its own, making it an important work of the genre. The book was memorably adapted into a marvelous film noir by John Farrow in 1948, where, among other changes, the book’s deadpan finale was replaced with a far more climactic one.

Author: Kenneth Fearing
Genre: Crime Thriller/Roman Noir
Language: English
Country: US