Sunday, April 24, 2011

Boulevard by Stephen Jay Schwartz

Rarely has a book disturbed me and kept me trapped in its power to the degree of Boulevard by Stephen Jay Schwartz. I might have missed reading it all together had I not gone to the RT Booklovers Convention earlier this month in Los Angeles. I attended a panel about keeping sex real in fiction. The panelists included my friends Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson, along with Barry Eisler and an author I hadn't heard of before, Stephen Jay Schwartz. (Sorry, Stephen!)

In the discussion, Stephen talked about his books. In a couple of sentences, he intrigued me about his main character - an LAPD detective who is also a sex addict. Conflict, anyone?

From page one, it was obvious that Stephen is one hell of a writer, a word artist, and a master storyteller. Not to sound blase about murder mysteries and psychological thrillers, but a cop versus serial killer plot isn't new. What made it new for me, and totally engrossing, is that Stephen transforms his story into a perfectly filmed movie that plays in the reader's imagination.

The scenes, the emotions, the people, are so vivid that they transcend the limits of the page. You not only see them, you feel them, no matter how sickening or painful. Whether cruising the L.A. streets, and seeing the broad cityscape through the eyes of detective Hayden Glass, or narrowing your focus to the angle of a posed corpse, you're in the scene. You become as caught up in the case as the characters and know that you have no choice but to see this through with them to the end. That's the gift of the author. The images are so spectacularly drawn that the prose nearly becomes poetic. Dark poetry, for sure, but beauty's not only found in sunlight.

Hayden Glass is tormented not only by the evil killer he hunts, but also by the internal compulsions he battles with every breath. I hurt for him and, I'm not ashamed to admit, even cried for him because of the choices he has to make and the losses he endures.

Boulevard is not an easy book to read, but writing this good is rare and once I started I was hooked. I wouldn't have missed it for the world and you better believe I'm going to read the second book in the series and whatever else Stephen Schwartz writes.

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