Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dirt; Mark LaFlamme

Dirt is an apropos political thriller written by Mark LaFlamme. According to the biography on his webpage, Mr. LaFlamme is a crime reporter based in Lewiston Maine. This is his fourth novel, although he has also written short fiction in addition to his regular work. This novel is set in his native region. Being a native of the state next door, it was fun reminiscing about the times I’d been to various locales Mr. LaFlamme mentions. Dirt is part psychological exposition and part political action thriller. Speaking for myself, it sent me in search of the DSM IV to look up necrophilia. The premise of the book is creepy and unsettling and unusual, to say the least. I presume Mr. LaFlamme’s imagination is amply fueled by his day job. Human depravity surely provides much fuel for his novels.

The plot appears to be straightforward, at least initially. Frank Cotton, the governor of Maine, is running for President. His son Calvin, inconveniently enough, has absconded with the body of his recently deceased wife. The governor’s campaign manager, Gary Orp, has hired a discreet reliable man named Thomas Cashman to ‘take care of’ the problem. Find Calvin and the body so it could all be hushed up before the press vultures hear about it and ruin Frank Cotton’s chances to be President. Naturally, it’s also shortly before the New Hampshire primary, so tiny northern New England is absolutely overrun with vultures, er.. reporters. The setting is very well chosen and thought out, providing intensity and a short time frame and internal deadlines integral to the story.

Honestly, I found the premise of this novel extremely gruesome. The imagery of a delusional man running around with a decaying corpse chased by an alcoholic novelist and a hired hitman was almost more than I could take. But Dirt can be read as more of a psychological study of individuals in extremis, a study of the relationships of people in pursuit of political power, as opposed to a simply following a madman and a corpse around New England. As an aside, I appreciated Mr. LaFlamme’s nod to history by using historical New England surnames in this story. Dirt is a compelling page turner of a novel, a study of power, alcoholism, obsession, death, grief and control.

Image found on Mr. LaFlamme's myspace page.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this title.


Cheryl said...

This sounds like an intersting and fascinating novel. Thanks for the review.


Bookwormom said...

You're welcome. I hope you enjoy it if you read it!