Billy's arrival in London is full of walks about town that take in tourist sights, wry observations, innocent wisecracks, loneliness, and the curiously unreal (to an American, at least) spectacle of a city trying to go about its business in a war zone:
"We turned a corner and had to stop as workers in blue coveralls hauled bricks away from a smoldering pile of debris that had slid out into the street. People going to work walked around the mess, carrying their newspapers, umbrellas, and briefcases as if it were completely normal to walk past bomb-damaged buildings. Shops across the street had OPEN FOR BUSINESS painted on wood plans nailed over shattered windows."Young Billy, like virtually all Americans, has no experience of war on his own soil, in his cities, on his own streets. Benn's leisurely introductory chapters lay the groundwork for possible conflicts, but mainly they give the innocent protagonist a chance to take in the strangeness of his own situation, and they invite readers to do the same.
(James R. Benn was part of the "War Crimes" panel at Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis. Read more about Benn at his Web site.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2009