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If you like your detective fiction raw and nasty, James Crumley's Dancing Bear is your cup of meat. Its protagonist Milo Dragovitch pursues two cases at once, which quickly entwine him in a shipment of cocaine, poachers, stunning and disaffected characters, grenades, AK-47s, and a slew of corpses strewn across the macho backwoods of Montana. As the detective sinks deeper into this morass, he spends as much time snorting "toots," belting shots of peppermint schnapps, and skirt-chasing (though that puts it politely) as he does sleuthing.
The violent, toxic nihilism of this environment may be familiar to fans of Hunter Thompson. Dragovitch is a mess of compulsions. Crumley doesn't quite have Raymond Chandler's way with a metaphor, but it's hard to argue with Crumley's intimacy with place, however over-the-top. I'm of two minds. My preference is for a writer like Ross MacDonald, Chandler's true heir who with utter restraint, was able to depict Southern California as a blasted moral landscape. Crumley is doing something similar, but using a blowtorch to do it.
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