CriminOlly thinks: Enjoyable and witty crime/horror mash up that could have done with a more ruthless editor 3/5
Title: Something More Than Night | Author: Kim Newman |Publisher: Titan Books | Pages: 368 | Publication date: 2nd November 2021 | Source: Publisher | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
On paper, Something More Than Night looked like a book I was going to love, and it was certainly one I was very excited to read. It combines three things I adore, hardboiled crime, horror and film trivia, and comes from an author I’ve previously enjoyed, Kim Newman. Aside from penning the Anno Dracula series and the interesting experimental novel Life’s Lottery, Newman is an excellent film critic and penned a history of modern (well, 70s and 80s) horror cinema which I read multiple times as a teenager.
Something More Than Night had a really fun concept at its heart. Author Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) and actor Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) were school chums in early 20th century England and team up again in 1930s Los Angeles where they get involved in the investigation of a bizarre crime. I won’t give away much more than that, but it’s fair to say that things get very weird very quickly.
For the most part, it’s very entertaining. The story moves at a fair clip and Chandler makes for a great narrator. The writing is often inventive and playful, and the book exciting very funny at times. As you’d expect from a film critic, Newman packs the book with interesting movie lore that’s well woven into the story and doesn’t overwhelm it.
The one spanner in the works is the inclusion of two long chapters that divert the reader away from the entertaining duo of Chandler and Karloff and focus instead on a buddy of theirs who’s a private eye. These sections are written in a very hardboiled third person style which felt laboured. They don’t really add anything to the story and in fact distract from the main action.
At over 350 pages it’s a fairly long book for what is a slight, if entertaining, concept. I honestly think that without the two third person sections it would have been a better, more enjoyable book. As it is, it can feel like a bit of a chore at times, which is a shame, because when it’s good, it’s as much fun as it sounds.
Dulwich College, England 1904. A young Raymond Chandler meets an enthusiastic cricketer named Billy Pratt (later Boris Karloff). Sharing a sense of being outsiders at school, the two young men become friends and Chandler encourages Pratt to help him uncover the mystery of the housemaster’s strange wife and various disappearing objects. What the boys uncover will haunt them their whole lives…
Hollywood, USA, 1944. When a young actress names Eliza Dane, also Chandler’s mistress, turns up dead, in an apparent suicide having jumped from the Hollywood sign, Chandler realises he cannot escape his past. He seeks out his old friend and together they confront the terrible creature who entered their lives all those years ago.
Content Warning: Racism, alcoholism
Tolerance Warning: All good