Are Snakes Necessary by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman #BookReview

When the beautiful young videographer offered to join his campaign, Senator Lee Rogers should’ve known better. But saying no would have taken a stronger man than Rogers, with his ailing wife and his robust libido. Enter Barton Brock, the senator’s fixer. He’s already gotten rid of one troublesome young woman — how hard could this new one turn out to be?

Pursued from Washington D.C. to the streets of Paris, 18-year-old Fanny Cours knows her reputation and budding career are on the line. But what she doesn’t realize is that her life might be as well…

Title: Are Snakes Necessary? | Author: Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman | Publisher: Hard Case Crime | Pages: 240 | ISBN: 9781789091205 | Publication date: 31st March 2020 | Source: Publisher

When one of my favourite publishers offered me the debut novel from a film director I’ve long admired I bit their hand off for it. Brian De Palma has a long and impressive list of movies to his name (‘Carrie’, ‘Body Double’, ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘The Untouchables’, ‘Scarface’ to name a few) and a reputation for visual audacity and great set pieces. On the basis of his work in cinema, I was expecting ‘Are Snakes Necessary?’ to include a strong plot, a fair amount of action and a bit of lunacy. The fact that it only has the last of those was a disappointment, but it’s still a fun read when you get into the rhythm of it.
The book focuses on a number of loosely linked characters, connected by a US senator with a fondness for extra-marital shenanigans. Aside from the politician and his wife, the cast includes one of his former lovers and her daughter, a photojournalist, a savvy single woman who gets wrapped up in a blackmail scheme.
There isn’t really a plot, more a series of vignettes as the characters lives intersect. It feels more like 50s melodrama than the focussed noir I was expecting, but once I accepted that I enjoyed it. There are a few fairly wild coincidences (including a whopper at the end) but they work within the lurid logic of the book. If you enjoy the silly twists of soap operas, you’ll probably like what De Palma and his co-author Susan Lehman do here.
How much of the book is De Palma and how much is Lehman really isn’t clear, but I’m not sure it matters. The writing itself is easy reading and fun, and despite the lack of a strong narrative I found the pages flew by. The book has decent dialogue, sex, intrigue, politics and murder. What more could you want? A stronger plot would definitely have helped, but even without that I had a lot of fun with ‘Are Snakes Necessary?’.


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