I first became aware of Ray Banks through his irreverent film blog Norma Desmond’s Monkey and his new novel, Dead Money, bears the hallmarks of a cinephile mind. The opening scene reads like a grimy hommage to Scorcese’s Casino, with Banks’ anti-hero Slater channelling De Niro as he sweeps The Palace’s faded pit, taking the reader into the world of grey-skinned grinders and luck junkies, filleting their delusions with an insider’s eye.
In the long-gone Banks worked as a croupier and a double glazing salesman and if any reader – or wannabe writer – doubts the value of paying your dues, they should look no further than Dead Money. It is filthy with authenticity, from the player who molests his chips as he rifles them, to the witty deconstruction of a visit to clients who are ripe for the taking. Banks knows the world he’s showing you and he handles it with a confidence which most writers could only dream of.
This being Banks there is inevitably violence and it is a million miles from the comic book antics of many crime novels. This is violence as experienced in real life, sudden and brutal but quickly subsiding into the necessary sang froid. Somebody has to clean the mess up afterall.
Alan Slater is a challenging protagonist in the mould of Amis’ John Self or Yates’ John Wilder; you like him but you’re not sure why. He’s got a smart mouth and he listens to Chet Baker, which is always a winning combination, but his temper is explosive and he can’t keep it in his trousers.
If you hate him right now I guarantee he’ll win you over…because there’s no way you’re not buying this book.
Dead Money is a tight and pacy read, the prose stripped to the bone and the dialogue pitch-perfect. Fans of Colin Bateman and Elmore Leonard will find it hits their sweet spot. Cohen brother lovers; one for you too.
For anyone new to Ray Banks’ work Dead Money is an ideal starting point, but you’re going to want more and you won’t be disappointed when you get it.
Published by Blasted Heath and available now.