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Happy Policeman (Patricia Anthony)




Back in the summer of 2010, I decided to see about curbing my book spending, and instead work on reading books already on my shelves. This was an obvious failure, when I was on the Powells Books website and found a bargain Sci-fi bin of books for about a dollar. I bought seventeen books and have been slowly working my way through them.
Patricia Anthony’s ‘The Happy Policeman’ was in that pile of books. I am not sure how this ended up in the dollar bin. Turns out, this book was incredible, worth far more than the dollar I paid for it. I bought it sight unseen, had no idea what the novel was about, but the cover art painted by Mark Smollin caught my attention, the title was unusual and the book became mine.
THIS BOOK WAS NOT ACTUAL SCI-FI. Do not auto-ignore this book if you are a genre snob, you may be missing out. Likewise, do not pick this book up thinking it will be handed to you on a platter, Patricia Anthony did a great job in obfuscating the end game and (as in my case) it takes some analysis to fully grasp the outcome. I actually sat for ten minutes after finishing this and thought to myself “What the hell was that?”. Once it sunk in, I found I had been presented with a confusingly brilliant story that is very recommendable.
The novel opens with DeWitt Dawson, police chief, riding his horse down Main Street, Coomy Texas. He has no gasoline for his police cruiser, the Torku have no trouble providing everything they need, but for some reason, gasoline takes them far longer than other supplies. DeWitt investigates some broken glass at a convenience store, wonders why anyone breaks into a store when the Alien Torku give people whatever they ask for.
Just outside town, DeWitt is called to investigate the body of Loretta Harper, naked-mutilated-never reported missing. She was found close to the plaid/paisley/rainbow colored dome that protects their town from the horrible radiation killing the world; Again, courtesy of the Torku. For six years, the Torku have helped the towns folk survive post ‘Bomb Day” when the world died. The Chief must determine if this murder was caused by a human survivor, or by one of the alien saviors who up this point have been hospitable and welcoming.
Labeled alternately as either Fiction or Science fiction, I believe it does this novel a disservice to pigeon hole it as SciFi based on the alien element or other “less tangible” aspects. It is more fringe than that. The Happy Policeman rides the cusp of multiple genres and is a potential read for any number of individuals. It is an investigative crime drama starring a pothead policeman. It is a human nature piece, showing the human desire for independence, the intrinsic need for self reliance that drives rebellion. It has cheating wives, and secret perversions; over-protective fathers and guilt laden decision making. It gives a shout out to ’12 Angry Men’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. And, because a number of the characters are aliens, it could loosely be considered Science Fiction,.
Based on the ending: I would consider this Speculative Buddhist Fiction (does the genre exists?).
The Alien Torku are a metaphoric plot device. Read the book, then read this review again. Afterwards we can fist fight over the details..
By fist fight, I mean drink beers..
By details, I mean discuss it’s awesomeness…
    If you are interested in the artwork, it looks like Smollin is selling the Acrylic painting this was sourced from for $500 bucks on his website.  Smollin.com Store: Happy Policeman Acrylic Painted On Heavy-Weight Canvas Sized: 8.5″ x 13″\
    Pretty cool stuff people. Pretty cool stuff :)
    Regarding the author, Patricia Anthony.. Looks like she stopped writing. Not sure why, but I see a string of highly praised books… Not sure what the story is there, but Wikipedia say she is still alive, so…. I found an interview with Anthony in 2000 as part of the Barcelona Review. Reading the interview pretty much solidifies her works as “Must Reads” in my opinion. Especially her more mainstream “Flanders” which occurs in WWI..

    Comments

    1. Very hard to find.

      She became an unsuccessful screenwriter.

      http://www.facebook.com/pages/Patricia-Anthony/112076332138950

      She was also in the hospital in 2011, but no word that I found since.

      http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=228360

      ReplyDelete
    2. i agree, very difficult to find. i need to read some more of her work.. it was a fresh experience, and very unusual.. not typically paired thoughts.

      ReplyDelete
    3. The book really looks interesting.. I think it has all the makings of a best seller!

      ReplyDelete
    4. I am not sure if this would ever make it that far, but it was definitely enjoyable.

      The topic matter and ending were solid, but they branched off a bit to places that standard consumers wouldn't go.. very "deep thought"..
      as such, i doubt it would ever be widely adopted. Considering the original publication was in 1996, think it is even stronger of a case.

      you should check it out though if it is up your alley.
      from me to you, i enjoyed it.

      ReplyDelete

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