Dark Passages: Serial Thrills

Up a bit early because of the holiday weekend is my newest Dark Passages column, which has a bit of a serial theme going on:

The serial novel conjures up images of a bygone century, of a time when

Charles Dickens made his name by teasing out the life and death of

Little Nell in monthly installments. But one need only look to the

flurry of posts on Jacket Copy last month discussing the first installment of Denis Johnson’s serial noir novella “Nobody Move,” published

in Playboy, to sense renewed interest in this supposedly dead format.

More intriguing, however, is how mystery and thriller stories figure

prominently in serial fiction’s current revival.

…Which brings us to “The Lemur” (Picador: 132 pp., $13 paper),

the bound version of Benjamin Black’s serial published in the New York

Times Magazine over 13 weeks in late 2007 and early 2008. Black, of

course, is the nom de noir of Booker Prize winner John Banville, and

enough ink’s been spilled about his pseudonymous transformation into a

crime writer — especially after “Christine Falls,” Black’s excellent

and moody debut, was nominated for the Edgar Award. But what bears

repeating is that the structural rigors of the genre allow Banville to

worry less about maintaining a sometimes claustrophobic style, freeing

up Black to play with language under the guise of entertainment.

Read on the for the rest.