The dialogue and the prose in Muscle flit effortlessly around the whole range of its sources and influences. Its prose is sullen, muzzy, droop-lidded. Some of it reads like a David Mamet play; there are undercurrents of Damon Runyon. There are utterances recognizable as pure Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. But Muscle’s inner logic, though highly poetic, is far superior to the junk in which it finds its origins... This is a remarkable, radical, historical novel. It’s as if everything bad about the 1940s and 50s are still circling the earth, another planet. You are practically strapped into a broken chair in a smoky, dingy room and forced to watch a writer at play, to watch his imagination, and what imaginations he gives his characters, zoom.
Muscle reads like a tragi-comic mash-up of Elmore Leonard and Samuel Beckett, with more than a dash of Tarantino for added zing. Trotter delights in the language of noir fiction — one minor character has ‘a nose that had been broken so many times it lay flat on his face like roadkill’; it’s a typical throwaway line, and a pleasure to read. Not everyone will relish the novel’s laboriously contrived construction, with its welter of nested, genre-fluid narratives and its dreamlike atmosphere. But Trotter is undoubtedly a writer to watch.