Books on GIF #40 — 'Red Lights' by Georges Simenon


Books on GIF is a weekly review and discussion of random books — from bestsellers to classics to unearthed gems — told with the help of GIFs. We'll cover fiction, nonfiction and the occasional graphic novel.

This Sunday's book is 'Red Lights' by Georges Simenon.
Red LightsThis was a good little book. It's a straightforward, noir-ish tale that also makes a very strong case against drinking and driving. It's Labor Day weekend in the 1950s, and Steve and Nancy are heading out from Long Island to pick up their two children from camp in Maine. Steve gets into alcohol-fueled bad moods from time to time, which he calls going 'into the tunnel.' That's where this road trip is headed. has a couple of drinks before they leave (one with Nancy, and one on the sly when he gets the car serviced), you know, to make the traffic jams more bearable. Then, after they get on the Merritt Parkway (there were so many landmarks from my youth in this book, including my home town!), Steve wants another drink. They argue before he pulls over at a roadside bar to: he comes back, Nancy's gone. She left a note saying she's catching the bus to Maine. So Steve thinks he's free to bender his way along the route. Upon returning to his car after stopping in yet another bar, he finds a man inside: an escaped prisoner from Sing Sing! Now a hostage, Steve drives the con, Sid Halligan, northward, all while sneaking more drinks. Finally, he's so drunk that when he tries to change a flat tire, he: Steve wakes up the next morning, Sid is gone, and so are his wallet and extra clothes. He finds a service station and calls ahead to the camp to tell his wife he'd be there later in the day. But he finds out SHE'S NOT THERE. with a ranging hangover, Steve begins a frantic search to find his wife. The morning newspaper offers a chilling clue. But he needs change for the pay phone! And a new tire! But first: won't give it away, but it's awful what happens to Nancy. Her and Steve's marriage, and their lives, are forever changed because of it. 'Red Lights' is not a literary tour de force, but it is a dark and gripping little book that reads quickly. If you like noir, fake tough guys, drunks and violence, you'll enjoy it.

My rating:'Red Lights' (Feux Rouges) was originally published in French in 1953. An English translation was first published in 1955. The New York Review of Books edition was published in 2006. 154 pages.

What's next?In the coming weeks I'll review 'Crossing to Safety' by Wallace Stegner, 'Fates and Furies' by Lauren Groff and 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman, among others.

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Thanks for reading!*


* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!