A review of NO STRINGS by Mark SaFranko

It is an all-too familiar scenario. A middle-aged man. Ageing, but still relatively good-looking. Finally enjoying a degree of financial security. Married to a woman whose bloom has long-since faded. Occasionally, he casts his eye around and sees younger and more attractive women than his wife. Privately he fantasises about these women, wonders if he should have an affair to spice up his increasingly humdrum life. ........ This is the situation that Richard Marzten, the hapless protagonist of Mark SaFranko’s novel No Strings, finds himself in. Marzten is the perennial malcontent, a restless, eternally self-dialoguing loner who has bagged himself the older millionairess that he always dreamed about, but who is now starting to get bored with his life of cozy, sexless domesticity. Most men who find themselves in Martzen’s predicament do not act on their fantasies. It might be loyalty to their partners which holds them back. A sense of moral restraint. Perhaps a fear of being found out and forced to return to their former indigent ways. Richard Marzten, however, has no such compunctions. Blinded by the maelstrom of his spiralling lust, he eases his conscience with a battery of half-baked justifications (the whole thing will only be a ‘one-off’, what’s wrong with a bit of harmless fun?, etc, etc.), then launches himself headlong into an affair. And what an affair it turns out to be. There are all the stock themes here you’d expect in a typical noir thriller. There is, for example, the sphinx-like femme fatale. There is blackmail. There is an accidental murder. There is a deftly narrated sense of paranoid entrapment. But what brings it all together, in my opinion, what really makes this novel stand way above other crime thrillers, is the breathless, impulsively delirious tone used to describe all these Chandleresque entanglements. This is all down to SaFranko’s prose style, which is as sharp as an engraver’s diamond-tipped burin, and his startlingly powerful and visceral metaphors ( ‘And [then] one day you find yourself in a boat on the ocean, your doubts circling you like bloodthirsty sharks, your regrets, your fuck-ups, closing in on you like the jaws of a gigantic vise’). In some other reviews for 'No Strings', I have seen SaFranko compared to writers like Chuck Palahniuk or Brett Easton Ellis. But these comparisons hardly do justice to the man. Mark SaFranko is simply Mark SaFranko. More ballsy than the shallow and gimmicky Palacuicak, more down to earth than the often depressingly soulless Easton Ellis, he is a master of modern noir, a true American original. Ten out of ten for me.