The Ice Man

I picked up a copy of The Ice Man by Philip Carlo in an op-shop a while back just on the basis that it looked vaguely interesting and cost less than a dollar. It's the true story of a mafia contract killer, which sounds like it should be pretty interesting. I started reading it recently and I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it. It's not that it's horrifying or disgusting, it's just really badly written.

It may sound absurd, given the content, but it honestly reads like a children's book. A children's book about murdering a whole bunch of people. It's all short, simple sentences that feel like they should be being read out by a Play School host. It's really hard to take an account of murder seriously when it's written in a manner more suited to describing a teddy bear having tea with an elephant.

And then it's a sudden jolt when the author includes quotes from the actual people involved. The way they speak just does not mesh with the way the book is written, and that's a pretty major flaw. The book is about these people, it shouldn't sound wrong when it quotes them verbatim.

But this is just the most obvious effect of the author's decision to write it up as a continuous narrative. He's turned a factual report into a novel. And done so in such a dramatic way that the subject, Richard Kuklinski, comes off seeming like a good guy, even as he's murdering people for annoying him or telling his girlfriend he'll kill her family if she doesn't do as he says.

The thing that really annoys me is that it's supposed to be a factual account. And I suppose it is, in that the specific events mentioned actually did happen, but it's like one of those nature documentaries where the narrator tells a story about the animals and gives them people names and pretends they're little humans who think and feel and act like we do.

I'm not saying Richard Kuklinski was not human, but the same sort of thing was done here. Rather than simply relating the facts and the statements of the people involved, the author has taken those things and then written a story around them. What you get is composed of things that actually happened, just like the footage on a documentary is actual things that the animals really did, but the impression you get from the finished product is not at all accurate.

So while I find the content interesting, the method of delivery just completely ruins it, which I find rather unfortunate.

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