Scalped works as high-intensity noir because every major and significant supporting character is driven by traumatic, unresolved events in his or her past. It works as fast-moving narrative because Aaron jumps back and forth in time, more distant flashbacks always building toward the present, and thus averting the danger of losing focus.
It works as believable, contemporary storytelling because it is unsparing and unsentimental in its depiction of the fictional Prairie Rose Indian reservation, and because its Native American, Asian and black characters can be driven and corrupt. There is little guilty-white-liberal breast-beating at work here. It works as hard-boiled because it's harsh and violent and because Aaron puts wisecracks in the mouths of tough characters at the grimmest moments.
Vertigo has just published or is about to publish Issue #33 of Scalped, and I wonder how long the series will continue in its current narrative form. A number of stories to this point include lengthy flashbacks to a given character's back story, and Aaron will run out of characters sooner or later, or at least risk seeming soap-operalike if he introduces new characters for the sake of giving them dramatic backgrounds. Already, the two strongest characters — the gone-but-returned Dashiell Bad Horse and the violent, corrupt, venal, haunted casino owner/police chief/boss/ex-activist Lincoln Red Crow — overshadow fellow characters given equal back-story treatment.
But that's a quibble. Scalped is one of my best crime-fiction discoveries in recent years and certainly the most unexpected.
(Read Scalped #1 free here.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2009