Here's a treat for everyone. The past round-up of books I've discussed here in Off The Shelf were pretty dated - and of course I will continue by reading up on old classics; expect Tolkien, Donaldson, R. Adams, Bradbury, Asimov and more. It's time to re-read some old stuff. But this time around we're going to mix things up with a new, circa June 2000, novel from newcomer Don Passman. His first novel, a debut that's been making big splashes in the literary mainstream-pulp world recently, is The Visionary. I've actually gone through two copies of this one as around page 400-something NJ Transit took it with them, the bastids so I had my wife run out the same day to get me another copy.
The Visionary is a fairly long novel - for a paperback anyway. It flows well, reads quickly and builds nicely to a riveting climax. The climax is so riveting, in fact, that upon reaching it there's suddenly a loud "pop" as the balloon deflates and you're kind of left with an empty feeling - and the ending is kind of disappointing in one of those, "Well fuck, I shoulda seen that!" kinda ways.
Nonetheless it's a good step forward into the fiction racket for Don Passman, who is currently finishing Mirage which seems to be a sci-fi/conspiracy thriller and is due out this coming October. Passman is a well-known entertainment lawyer who has already produced a book about his exploits in this business. He's got a way to go before becoming "great" at fiction, but he's on his way and is pretty skilled as a wordsmith besides his work in the courts of law. And I can sympathize, finding myself recently moving from a PC Technician with a computer lab to a writer position in a different state. It's not easy.
The Visionary seems to stand somewhere between Sybil, Silence of the Lambs and Copycat. A series of murders to similar looking women. The murders get more gruesome as time moves on and include such nuances as electrocution, hacksaws and, uh, removal of various appendages. The cop on the case, Detective Talon, is a brow-beaten "bad boy" of the LAPD. With the case quickly over his head, he brings in his friend, UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Rennick, to assist with interviewing suspects and providing profile information from the case files. The murders are increasing in speed and becoming more and more gruesome now as Rennick discovers that one of his patients' "psychic visions" are seemingly matching descriptions of the crime scene. Talon, being out of aces and with empty sleeves, wants to use her. Rennick is torn by helping his friend solve a case and the protection of his patient. Lisa Cleary, the psychiatry patient I speak of, helps the decisions along by showing up at crime scenes without bidding and leading Talon and Dr. Rennick to various pieces of the puzzle - discarded raincoats, bloodied knives and other buried evidence.
Discovery by Talon, in his interest of Cleary, that her mother was murdered seventeen years earlier in much the same fashion as these new serial killings and he begins to suspect her brother Lance and father Ron. Also there's one Mr. Logan, a deranged software consultant who's had his troubles with the law and bloodied his own hands in the past. He gets thrown in the mix and the novel rushes on until the murders hit people ever closer to Talon and Rennick until finally, the killer is caught at the bedside of a near-victim.
With the inclusion of so many suspects, so much running around and all the pizzazz that Passman throws into The Visionary to confuse, confuddle and otherwise obscure what in the end becomes an obvious ending, I must say I was rather surprised. I should have seen it coming, especially considering my recent reading of Sybil, but I must confess I didn't. So kudos to Passman for throwing so much in his fictional blender that I truly didn't figure it out until I was standing there with Rennick watching the final murder scene as it was happening (or about to happen, anyway).
Passman provides a good first step into the fictional realm. Mirage might be worth looking into methinks. If you like the psycho-thriller genre of fiction, you're sure to enjoy Passman's The Visionary.
"The Visionary" by Don
Published by Warner Books, Inc.
Copyright © 1999 by Don Passman