Book review: Johnny Passe by Scott Fivelson and Tim Cleavenger

the cover of the book

”I'm Passe. Johnny Passe.” In the big city where everyone scurries onto the next big trend, and the classics fall by the wayside, it's easy to become passe. Unless you're noir by Fivelson and Cleavenger. In this case, Passe is enduring.

The story

Johnny Passe is a small time private eye in a big-time city, trying to stay afloat, looking for a big-time opportunity. Going through the personals ads one morning in nineteen seventy six, he stumbles across a name from his past, piquing both his interest and his sense of duty.

Johnny thinks solving this one will be simple enough, but is quickly thrown right into the deep end of a dying Jazz age, rat-pack intrigue. Can Johnny think fast enough on his feet to cash in on this musical mystery?

The style

Noir. How I love it; it makes me feel like I'm re-living the glory years when I wasn't even there in the first place. There's something lovely about all those cliches that make the genre, and how when they work, the really work. And that's just regular, detective-meets-girl-and-someone-gets-shot noir. Then there's Fivelson and Cleavenger, who take all the right bits of the genre - the punchy sentences, the teeth-gripping-a-cigar-style narrative – and throw us a hilarious plot curve-ball. To quote them, “This case was cute. Getting cuter all the time.”

Johnny Passe weighs in at a petite seventeen pages; brevity is what noir is all about (unless of course, you're James Ellroy, different kettle of fish entirely). Which makes it even less forgivable if you put it down. Johnny Passe is well paced, clever, and has the trademark Scott Fivelson quirky plot originality which leaves any reader chuckling quietly to oneself.

Who is this book for?

If you're a fan of the noir genre, you'll like this. By the same token, if you're not, it's seventeen pages long, people. I mean, seriously. And who knows, it might turn out that you do like noir!

If you like this book, you would also like...

I guess the issue here is, Johnny Passe is a step away from the genre, in that it's quirky and funny, and a lot of your more classic noir is pretty much dark and depressing. Which is the actual definition of noir. But if cutting your teeth on Johnny Passe has left you keen for detectives, try Raymond Chandler, or Walter Mosley, or one of those big noir compendiums (James Ellroy put out a good one recently). However, if you appreciated it for it's quirky smarts, look no further than Scott Fivelson's back catalogue. The man is funny!

In short

Title: Johnny Passe
Author: Scott Fivelson,Tim Cleavenger
Publisher: Hen House Press
ISBN: 978-1937890049
Year published: 2011
Pages: 17
Genre(s): Detective fiction, Humour