All of these writers collect around Grey Streets, a journal that publishes crime writing. The formula for publishing a story in that journal is simple: “Plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die.” One of the lovely and wildly improbable turns in Bad Things Happen is that in twenty-first-century Ann Arbor, a whole group of people manage to make comfortable livings from a pulp journal and that they take the ambitions of publishing so seriously they would actually kill for a story line. It has the feel of something from the heyday of the great American noir detective novels. It is clearly part of the homage Harry Dolan pays to Chandler, Hammett, and the others who’ve influenced him.
More of that influence is felt in the clean, mostly unadorned prose that animates the book, and in the twists and turns of the plot that David Loogan, a mysterious and improbable “detective,” tries to unravel. Conveniently, Loogan also appears to be a naturally gifted editor. But in Bad Things Happen, editing, too, is an occupation where you put your life on the line—particularly in the darkly ambitious version of Ann Arbor that Harry Dolan has created.
Harry Dolan reads from his novel at Borders on Tuesday, July 28.
[Originally published in July, 2009.]