Cass Neary made her name in the seventies as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and the hangers-on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, earned her a brief moment of fame.
Thirty years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out when an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. When she arrives Down East, Cass stumbles across a decades-old mystery that is still claiming victims, and she finds one final shot at redemption.
Read this. It’s strong writing. It slows down in the right places and it is a solid and well constructed noir. It builds slowly, establishing the setting as a character in it’s own right and the protagonist Cass Neary has a damaged toughness and an unerring instinct for self preservation. Hand does with her, what Stephen King does in his work. Establish their heart authority, their abilities and knowledge/self knowledge and then test every facet of that against the momentum of the story. It shows rather than tells us about the history of the people and the place that Neary has to visit to interview the reclusive photographer and it uses that gradual pace to draw us in deeper before turning the key and locking Neary (and by proxy, us) in with the nightmare.
She writes beautiful prose, that does not derail the menace. There’s a constant tension, a sense of mystery, a fluidity and lack of judgement for her characters that made this book a swift and beguiling read. It is beautiful and sad, haunted by itself and quick to establish a point of view that the losers of the culture wars are worthy of attention and storytelling as the winners. Probably more so, as Hand ably demonstrates here. The sections of exposition about photography, both in it’s history and technology/technique are confident and passionate, bringing together that Neary’s talent is her redemption and despite some actions of pure, dark self interest, she has the toughness and the damage to see where the past is still wounding the present.
I enjoyed this book, I will be looking into reading more of her work as she has a fantastic back catalogue and there are also sequels with Neary again to look forward to. Generation Loss is a great book, well worth your time and attention. She is on Twitter as @Liz_Hand and at her website http://www.elizabethhand.com.