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Posted: October 22, 2016

Hallinan fascinating, entertaining and enlightening

Book Review

By Derryll White

Hallinan, Timothy (1993), The Man With No Time.

Kramer of the Max Planck Institute in Germany noted that when migration time arrived, starlings tended to take off at a certain angle with respect to the position of the sun. If the apparent position of the sun was changed by mirrors, the migrating starlings tended to take off in a direction which had the same angle relative to the sun’s position in the mirror….      Greza Szamosi – The Twin Dimensions: Inventing Time and Space

brinsetTimothy Hallinan is a sensitive thinker, seeing things through different filters from most of us. When Simeon Grist, his professor turned private eye and main character, thinks about Chinese he envisions a wall, impenetrable and strong. And seeing as how his one-time girlfriend and still his love, Eleanor, is on the other side of the wall he embraces the challenge of piercing through. Simeon sees Los Angeles as a huge, seething ethnic basin.

Hallinan takes time with his characters, building in lots of details and using descriptive language to make the individual nuances even larger. Eleanor becomes the reader’s hearts desire and Grist the determined, brave fool we secretly all want to be. Honour speaks out loud here, even in the gritty, garbage strewn alleys of Chinatown. And Hallinan is never far from a philosophical side street. He lets his brain (and that of the reader) stretch with the possibilities of space and time, haves and have-nots, and the celebration of the very distinctly different possibilities of men and women.

In the end, time is very personal and the man without it has love – and a life to live. The bad guys simply run out of time. I found Timothy Hallinan fascinating, entertaining and very enlightening. I will make lots of time to read him again.

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Excerpts from the novel:

SEX – “I hate to say it,” Hammond said, “but that’s a phrase with real interest value. Slave girls.”

“But against the law,” I said virtuously.

“Well, the law,” Hammond said. “The law never works where sex is concerned, you know? Ask the guys in Vice.”

CHINESE WAYS — There had been a scene. There was always a scene.

I wasn’t used to scenes. My family didn’t have them. We loved each other politely and fought with silence. No one in my family ever threatened a relative with a meat cleaver or kicked a hole in a door. We touched each other’s clothing, not each other’s skin. I found that I liked scenes. I liked getting the anger out and over with, the spontaneous upwellings of love, the unpredictable eddies from some deep, lovingly familial current.

LOS ANGELES – Lek, I thought. Thai. Lek and Ning and Lala, all of them thousands of miles from rice paddies and gilded temple spires and easy smiles. The Chans, Chinese. The tongs. The Vietnamese kids. All of them here now, part of a city that has more Koreans than anyplace outside Korea, more Cambodians and Thais than anyplace outside Cambodia and Thailand, more Japanese than anyplace outside Japan. Hell, we had more Canadians than Vancouver. A hundred languages, literally, are spoken in the public schools. All these people, Filipinos and Armenians, Turks and Guatemalans and Salvadorans, migrating over the lines and the empty blue spaces on the maps to create whole communities in a big ugly basin where the dominant gas is carbon monoxide and the dominant currency is disappointment. Mass movements, mass migrations, to get here.

A LAWYER – I’d overstated the case when I described Claude B. Tiffle to Dexter as a white man. Claude Tiffle had virtually no color at all. He looked like something that had evolved underground: eyes as pale and soiled as mushrooms, hair like alfalfa sprouts, a sparse mustache that looked like a gaggle of centipede’s legs. Fat, wet, white lips, it was easy to imagine him licking, a dirty dimple in his chin that you could have sharpened a pencil in, and a belly so beery I expected to hear it slosh when he got up.

derryllwhiteDerryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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