The Old Shelter

Dieselpunk Roaring Twenties. Sarah Zama's Author Blog

A Fistful of Nothing

One morsel review: Very dark noir mystery set in dieselpunk 1950s Hollywood. Stunning visuals but a somewhat unclear plot.

511WiV471ALA Fistful of Nothing
Dan Glaser

Genre: dieselpunk

Jim is just trying to get his money back from his bookie, but things get out of his hands and a kid gets killed. Now Jim needs to find the culprit, or he won’t live with himself and his shame. But this investigation will turn his world upside down.


Imagine WWII didn’t end in the 1940s. Imagine it actually expanded, spreading all over the world and in Los Angeles turned into a continuous bombarding that made life impossible. In this desolation, the bombing itself cause cave-ins that created a whole new environment beneath the city, a maze of tunnels and undergrounds plazas and streets, buried buildings and cave-like adobes where – in the 1950s – people can actually live… or pretend they do.
These are the Hollywoodholes, a place where there is no sky and no light but just an eternal night lit by neon lights.
I’ll say it, the setting of the novel is the part I liked the best. It makes for a very noir place, with a definite dieselpunk twist, with all the mechanics involved in it, and the atmosphere is claustrophobic and ominous. I really enjoyed it.

It’s with the story that I actually had a couple issues.
The structure of the story is recognisably a mystery, but I found it too convoluted and difficult to follow. I could feel all the elements for understanding the action were there, but they were buried so effectively into the plot that they didn’t actually make it to my attention. So I ended up missing pieces of the mystery and this left me confused, even when the mystery was dissected by one of the characters in the end.

I think this is also the reason why I had some difficulties relating to the characters. Because the plot wasn’t clear to me, the characters’ reasons also evaded me in many places. But regarding characters, I really liked the relationship between Jim, the main character and Betty, the female main character. Despite a lot of sexual tension between them, it never becomes a romance, but on an emotional level, they become very close, in that complicated, somewhat twisted way noir man/woman relationships are. Their last dialogue on the phone, more honest that any they had ever had, was probably my favourite part in the novel.

But if as a mystery ‘Fistful of Nothing’ might have a couple issues, as an adventure it worked perfectly: action-packed, very fast-paced, full of unusual characters.

This is the first instalment in a planned trilogy, the Hollywoodholes Sonata. Watch out for the new releases.


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2 thoughts on “A Fistful of Nothing

  1. Odd coincidence, just a few hours ago I was watching some documentary items on noir, and came away with the impression that one of the hallmarks of noir is that it is dark and convoluted, never quite clear, to the point of being deliberately confusing, and it leaves you with more questions than answers. I’m right with you on the setting, and this whole world sounds fascinating. You’re a bad influence on me; I think I might be turning into a D’punk!

  2. Hey, Jack, I’ve also watched a very nice BBC documentary on the genre and posted about it here
    … in case you want to check it out 😉

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