Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: THE COLD DARK HOURS by A.G. Yates (Carter Brown)

The Cold Dark HoursTHE COLD DARK HOURS by A.G. Yates is far different from his works as pulp novelist Carter Brown though some traits remain the same. Like any Carter Brown novel and dimestore novels of the era, the depiction of female leads borders on soft porn. Whether it’s through their garment shedding occupation in shady nightclubs or a brief description of an office receptionist upon her arrival at work the overt and unashamed objectification of their physical attributes conjures imagines of curvaceous and willing young women placed in front of the male character in similar fashion to a course of red meat. Bear in mind, in Carter Brown novels this perception of a female lead as eye candy is generally a smoke and mirrors tactic with that same character developing into a pivotal piece of the story.

THE COLD DARK HOURS is grounded and perhaps driven by the female leads in Lavinia Sloan (wife of Electronics GM Jason) and Peggy Bush (Keith’s personal secretary). Both are vastly different characters from one another and surprisingly rich in back-story and characterisation. Lavinia is the picture perfect housewife stuck inside a broken frame, a model for her executive husband with a secret past that’s far from glamorous. While Peggy is a distraction of the good kind for Keith, the central character and P.R man at the front of THE COLD DARK HOURS, a young woman with ambition, drive, and willingness to do whatever it takes to make a name for herself in the world of public relations.

I couldn’t help but think of MADMEN while reading THE COLD DARK HOURS; similar concepts, similar era, similar male business executives and women secretaires true to the stereotype. The plot centralises around a failed television set and the company’s (Electronics) attempts to change the public’s perception of their product through crafty advertising and public relations. Keith Kirkland, recently returned home to Sydney from New York is thrown in at the deep end, forced to disregard his workmates and adopt a ‘take charge’ attitude to turn the company fortune around. Despite many of his co-workers being displeased with Keith’s sudden rise in the P.R ranks, he manages to establish loyalty, but not before encountering some drama along the way.

A.G. Yates pays homage to the old adage ‘what comes around goes around’. Keith’s rise to prominence is not without fall. It’s interesting to read Keith as a ‘yes man’ only to see his staff eventually assume the role once his stake in the company is realised. I thought A.G. Yates pulled this role reversal off beautifully. There is a lot of humanity to THE COLD DARK HOURS and the take on 1950’s office etiquette which I found enjoyable and insightful in comparison to the present day. 

THE COLD DARK HOURS is one of the better works of fiction by the author famously known as Carter Brown which, despite the over use of exclamation marks, is well written and free flowing. 4 stars.

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