The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad (book review).

February 23, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

The only other book by Norman Spinrad I’ve read was his third, ‘Bug Jack Barron’ and I was somewhat confused by its title before reading, thinking it was about an insect than irritating a TV commentator to do something. Once read, although the Californian flippant dialogue jarred, I couldn’t doubt that Spinrad could write, although over the years, I didn’t see any of his other books over here.

Anyway, an opportunity to read his latest book, ‘The People’s Police’, came up was a chance to see what he was writing these days. Set in New Orleans, after the famous hurricane that flooded it and the recession that was getting the banks getting the police involved to evict people who couldn’t pay their mortgages. Thing is, this would also include the police officers evicting their own people. Before that, we follow the life of police officer Martin Luthor Martin and his rise through the ranks and by the machinations of others, initiates a police strike to stop this happening. Into this is also the election of a new mayor with a surprise win by MaryLou Boudreau aka Mama Legba, the current Voodoo Queen and local TV star with a perchance for sharing body time with various loas or spirits. Oddly, this is the only thing that would give this book a classification into our genre so you have to consider it a borderline book.

What does come out of this is the feeling that Spinrad has researched the area and giving a sample of life in New Orleans but with his own twist, which also has a big spoiler which messes up telling much more of the plot. Saying that, when the story follows Martin’s life closely in the first two-thirds of the book, he becomes more of an incidental character for the rest as Spinrad wants to capture the bigger picture.

Spinrad’s vivid imagery and dialogue is as sound as I remember it, together with much of the emotional intensity, even if he loses a crucial emotional beat reaction with the crucial spoiler. I do wonder if Spinrad really needs Science Fiction and just focus on the general genre but as he’s had a successful writing career, I doubt if he worries about that.

Don’t expect conventional Science Fiction but if you want to read a slice of life, this is a good example to try.

GF Willmetts

February 2017

(pub: TOR/Forge. 284 page small hardback. Price: $27.99 (US), $38.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-8427-0)

check out websites: www.tor-forge.com and www.normanspinradatlarger.blogspot.com

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Category: MEDIA

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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  1. DMcCunney says:

    I’ve read most of Spinrad’s stuff. Bug Jack BArron was originally serialized in the Michael Moorcok edited New Worlds magazine, and IIRC, resulted in calls for censorship and revocation of the Arts Council grant that funded New Worlds. It was also a centerpiece of the then prominent “New Wave” in SF, whose practitioners emphasized style. Others classed as New Wave writers included Brian Aldiss, Greg Bear, Roger Zelazny and Samuel R. Delany. (Roger was a bit bemused – he got included because of Creatures of Light and Darkness, where he deliberately tossed in every radical writing technique he knew of to see what would happen. It was essentially a literary joke and he was startled when it was taken seriously.)

    My favorite of Spinrad’s works is likely The Void Captain’s Tale. Man travels between the stars using technology left behind by an extinct alien race. The Void Captain is the chief officer of an interstellar liner. Another critical crew member is the Pilot. The Pilot is always female, but does not actually drive the ship. She’s an organic component in the circuitry that powers the interstellar jumps. When the destination is programmed into the ship’s computers and the drive is engaged, she completes the circuit, the ship disappears Here and reappears There, and she experiences the ultimate orgasm. (There are suggestions that the alien creators of the technology are extinct because once they completed and deployed the technology, they lost interest in things like eating and sleeping. The were all too busy coming.)

    Spinrad has forged a decent career, but his primary living came from writing for French TV, so he could write what he felt like with less concern for bestseller status. What he felt like writing was SF.

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