All my friends loved Paul Auster’s New York trilogy when it came out in the mid-1980s. They recommended it to me, repeatedly. It was like American pulp fiction, they said, but also like French literary theory. I bought it. I tried reading it, repeatedly. I would get 40 pages into Auster’s parboiled prose about doppelgangsters looking for private dicks called Auster and then I would stop, and stopping would feel good.
I had been reading a completely different novel from my friends: this was probably my failure rather than theirs. And Auster wrote much better later on. (Or so the same friends tell me.)
With Muscle, the Scottish writer Alan Trotter has written the book my friends were recommending – or, at least, the one I thought they were recommending. It does what City of Glass promised to do: takes Raymond Chandler, Albert Camus, Philip K Dick and Patricia Highsmith and pummels them together into something not entirely new but exquisitely fresh.
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