Customer Reviews: Rilke on Black (Mask Noir)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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on March 23, 2001
I picked up Rilke on Black in a remainder lot somewhere and read it months later on a whim. For it's faults, this is a first novel of tremendous intensity by a writer whose works I now intend to hunt down. It's certainly energised me to track him and end up dashing this off.
Stylistically, Bruen throws so many punches so rapidly in this first novel that it's hard to track down influences. Certainly he's read and studied the classics, from Hammett to Ross Macdonald. For California, tho, substitute working class London. And the story is told by a guy Lew Archer didn't get to when he was a troubled adolescent.
Having mentioned faults, I should say that the rythmn of this book seems a bit off to me at times. The sheer impact of the narrative, however, tends to obscure the problem.
I've come away feeling Bruin's peers are more along the lines of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop than any literary school, and this is certainly no slur. Rilke on Black is a short slam dance of a book that casts a rather long shadow, a small canvas with details that emerge long after you've finished the book.
Certainly this isn't mass market stuff. If you appreciate precise, focused prose in a deceptively tight plot with disturbing undertones left and right, however, give Rilke on Black a shot. I feel this is something of a find.
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on February 9, 2008
Raymond CHandler once said to an editor that cut a description, claiming that the reader didn't care about that sort of thing, that he was wrong. Atmosphere, observation and feeling were ALL the reader cared about. They just didn't know it.

Which is something to keep in mind about Ken Bruen. Once in a while his plots can feel contrived (and sometimes they are great) but his sense of atmosphere - whether in London or Galway, always among hard men and tough women - never waivers. Rilke on Black is far superior to the similar Her Last Call to Louis McNiece. All Bruen's strengths are on display here. Characters are drawn effortless, with just a few strokes, and feel true to life.

It's great to see Inspector Brandt show up late in the novel, too. He's not yet the full blown creation that is Bruen's best achievement, but this book is a great sign of the things to come.
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on April 26, 2014
Bruen hardly ever disappoints. And how can anyone turn down reading a book entitled "Rilke On Black"? But what makes it all work is the personality of our main character. His casual view of things, the introspective thug, the impossibly irresistible woman and trouble, trouble, trouble. You won't be disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon November 27, 2009
Borrowing from the slick sparse noir styles of James Cain and Jim Thompson this book traces the union of three miscreants-a bouncer, his psychotic friend and his hooker girlfriend- through the kidnapping of a club owner who reads Rilke. What happens when a very unstable multi agenda group work together? Twists, turns, violence, and that unmistakeable Bruen black humor. Give yourself a fast read and a quick trip down Bruen Lane.
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on February 8, 2013
Ken Bruen's book is very reminiscent of the late great Jim Thompson in the descent into madness that the main character goes through and the characters that fill this novel with one major difference - Jim Thompson had the tendency to write passages of his books in a manner that was quite incomprehensible while Bruen writes quite masterfully.

This novel involves a bouncer who meets a black girl and starts a torrid affair with her while dealing with his no good but amiable friend Dex. Together they plan the kidnapping of a businessman for ransom.

The book is not long (about 145 pages) and reads quite briskly but it has some disquietening moments throughout and demonstrates quite clearly that Bruen is a writer to read.

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on March 24, 2008
Quirky characters with dialog that'll have you believing you're living in their world. But you'll be glad you're not (or, at least, I certainly hope not). This is a written word version of all those horrific youtube videos where some guy (it's always a guy) races his bike/car/sled straight into a wall... and then does it again! Some people just like to live on the edge of the razor blade. Ken Bruen's characters in this book certainly do. You'll see where they're heading, you'll want to look away, but just like with the youtube videos, you won't be able to. And you'll be glad you didn't.
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on July 25, 2010
Bruen is someone who has such high regard right now I was curious to see what his early work was like and I love this little book. Simple, well told, hard boiled as all get out and with that distinctive Bruen voice. A really great fast read.
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on June 21, 2014
I pre-ordered the book and was delighted with the treat awaiting me but it just felt empty compared to Ken Bruen's other work. Not a book to start you on a Bruen oddessey sadly.
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on December 28, 2013
He manages to combine old time hard-boiled detectives with a touch of humor. Ken Bruen is always fun to read.
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on May 7, 2000
This is a rather weak example of noir writing. Bruen uses the short, choppy style, but his sentences seem empty of the toughness that characterizes the best noir (I'm thinking of Ellroy or Thompson). He also has some very annoying (and frequently used) stylistic devices which detract. Throw in some high and low culture references which aren't even necessary, weak characterizations, and an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusions, and you've got "Rilke on Black".
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