This Ragged, Wastrel Thing is Tomas Marcantonio’s latest release, the first of an upcoming trilogy. James Pierson reviews it here.
Daganae Kawasaki is a free man. Having served an eleven-year sentence for the murder of his childhood sweetheart, he’s finally released back onto the streets of Sonaya, a port city that is a denizen of crime and poverty. It’s not long though until he’s embroiled in another murder case, and soon his path is crossing that of street orphans who carry messages for various unsavoury people, biker girls, washed-out expats, street gangs and corrupt police.
What to do if one wants to write noir of the old school, something Dashiel Hammet, Jim Thompson, or Raymond Chandler might have penned? A writer can either set the novel in the past or try to create a noir feel in a modern city (often difficult, though not impossible, as police procedures have modernised, crime trends have changed and red lights districts have either been cleaned up or moved online). A bold move and one that Tomas Marcantonio has opted for is to totally invent a new place.
Sonaya is a breakaway region of Japan, a fictional port city where the internet has been banned, where crime is rife, where the red light district and the city centre rival any of the past. This setting allows the author to have his cake and eat it. This is a novel set today, but eschewing the modern technology that is the bane of a writer’s life. Mobile phones, for example, are a great problem to crime writers, for readers or viewers ask why doesn’t the victim just dial the emergency services? Hence the number of books and movies where reception is poor, or batteries run low, the characters having not charged their phones. The world the author creates in this novel allows him to neatly step around this tricky problem, for phones are not available and messages are delivered by messenger boy. But it also allows him to pick and choose. So the police still have drones and CCTV and his protagonist has to flit from building to building and wear disguise.
This futuristic world gives the author plenty of space to play with new ideas. Men are taxed on how good looking they are, people are paid to have children, while meat is banned. Set in the future as it is, there’s a hint of a climate crisis in the background and wars that have occurred between the two Koreas. Perhaps there’s also a commentary on Brexit. Sonaya has broken away from Japan and things haven’t been a success. Independence is celebrated with a mixture of stubborn pride and regret, though again the author hints that Japan hasn’t fared too great either.
Most importantly however is the feel of this novel and its dialogue. This story is told from Daganae Kawasaki’s point of view and it’s imbued with the style of Chandler: the dialogue, the to-and-fro between characters, the narration, all are Chandleresque in the extreme and the author succeeds magnificently in living up to such a mantel.
This is a brilliant novel and Tomas Marcantonio is a truly gifted author. This is the first novel to be published by Storgy, who until now, has published anthologies, and I really hope it’s widely read. Tomas Marcantonio is an author to watch and one who deserves to go far and This Ragged, Wastrel Thing really does deserve success. Apparently, it’s the first in a trilogy and I really look forward to the sequel.
This Ragged, Wastrel Thing by Tomas Marcantonio
978-1-9163258-0-7 Storgy Paperback August 2020
James Pierson 5/5*