On checking his rear-view mirror, Zane might find his back seat now occupied by Liberian child soldiers, their eyes glassy with drugs, their small hands grasping hand-me-down Russian assault rifles approximately four sizes too large. A West African horizon might replace outer Mississauga's industrial wasteland, under the same dissipating sun. A dead man, installing himself uninvited in the passenger seat, might speak. Panic rushes in, sweat popping from cold pores, the sour taste of bile and adrenalin, pain in the guts. --from Combat Camera
Combat Camera by A. J. Somerset is that very rare thing, a really superbly realized Canadian novel. It concerns Lucas Zane, a celebrated photographer who has burned out emotionally after covering battles in most of the wars of the late twentieth century. He has come to the end in Toronto, drunk, hallucinatory, all ambition fled. He earns the rent by taking photographs for Richard Barker, an impresario of shoestring-budget pornographic movies. On the set he meets “Melissa” and the novel explores their involvement.
After a horrific assault, Zane tries to rescue Melissa and bring her back home to Vancouver, while trying to mount a comeback by constructing a photo-essay about "Melissa's" life. Zane's reflections on camera angles, available light, film stock and shutter speeds - all the by-now obsolete technology of his years of fame - form a hymn to the beauty of art. Though Zane himself would deny that.
But the power of the book lies in its voice, a voice that is restless, ceaseless, meandering, tragic, sometimes very funny, a mind and a voice maintain an almost hypnotic grip on the reader.