Reviews and Comment: The Cracked Earth (1998)

Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune

"The best L.A. earthquake scenes ever, the best private detective making love to an old movie star moments ever, the most bearable private detective driving a beat-up car scenes ever (a 1979 AMC Concord), the hands-down winner in the long-running "Where is the Next Raymond Chandler Coming From?" sweepstakes -- all of these honors belong to The Cracked Earth by John Shannon, remarkably an original paperback just published by Berkley Prime Crime ($5.99). Where has Shannon been all our lives? The Concrete River, his first book about private eye Jack Liffey (Get it? Shannon and Liffey? Both rivers in Ireland?) was published by John Brown Books in Culver City, CA. Buy enough copies of his latest and maybe Berkley will republish it."

James Crumley, bestselling author of Bordersnakes

"The landscape of Los Angeles, both actually and metaphorically, has been deconstructed by writers from West to Chandler to Didion, but never quite as artfully as John Shannon does it in The Cracked Earth. A fine, interesting read."

Jim Sallis, author of the Lew Griffin Novels

"Last night I finished The Cracked Earth, which I think truly fine (over and again I found myself rereading sentences, especially the descriptions -- what a sense of place!) I wanted very much to thank you for the inscribed copy of this marvelous novel. It is treasured."

Charlotte Vale Allen, Spotlight Reviewer,

"Shannon's Jack Liffey is an extraordinary creation. This is the third of the four books in the series that I've read (I'm saving the fourth one as a treat for a gray day) and I'm coming to know Liffey as a classically conflicted fellow who likes women a little too much, who hates little rat-like dogs but treasures children (even respects them) and whose view of the Los Angeles lifescape is apocalyptic. Liffey is an unlikely, even reluctant hero who does the right thing because it's the only way he knows how to proceed. His dealings with young people demonstrate great sympathy for their posturings, their inner turmoil, their desire for independence and status, and for their fears.

His search for film star Lori Bright's daughter has him crossing paths with some truly fascinating characters: the Jamaican, Terror, who has a use for ginger beer that I will remember every time I open a bottle for the rest of my life; the computer geeks, both abled and disabled, who snake through the bowels of cyberspace in a state of glee; and the everpresent Marlena whose love is a warm, swampy place where Liffey periodically seeks comfort.

The world of Los Angeles, according to Liffey, is in perpetual chaos. Each book in the series shows random acts of natural or human mayhem (a man painted purple being taken into custody); shocks and aftershocks heaving cars and their passengers into terror and states of diminishing reason. The metaphor, in Shannon's hands, is a powerful tool. His books are never merely sequential, connect-the-dots mysteries but are broader, larger comments on how people have come to accept the bizarre as the norm. Shannon is the philosopher king of the mystery forum. And long may he reign."