by Mani Parcham
Lucas Zane is a retired war photojournalist turned porno photographer suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Melissa is a street-smart stripper and porn star trying to scrape her way out from under the indignities of the skin trade. Zane and Melissa meet at a photo shoot and eventually team up to escape their ugly pasts and rely upon one another to face their difficult futures.
As Combat Camera develops, we see the source of angst in Zane’s life through flashbacks and constant physical reminders of what the combat photojournalist has endured, and it takes a persistent charmer like Melissa to coax the story out of him. Zane is the put-upon grouch who comes to realize that Melissa is a special young woman who needs someone—anyone—in her corner.
If it sounds like Combat Camera has a cinematic, “insert hard on their luck scenario here” quality, you’d be correct. Somerset has admitted that Combat Camera was initially conceived as a screenplay, and it reads as such. The scenes unfold like camera shots, where every minute action is described; and with lines like, “The Manual of Photography burns through new editions faster than Hollywood burns through marriages,” Somerset’s prose fails to take risks and approaches cliché. And yet, I still wanted to know what happened next.
Occasionally, Somerset will give readers an idea of where he’s going with the narrative: “What you put on film is 1/250th of a second. There are 15,000 equivalent moments each minute, 900,000 each hour—how can one such moment tell the immutable truth?” Such lines force the reader to consider other questions: How can a first encounter, a one-time snapshot of Lucas or Melissa, tell their entire story? Is 1/250th of a second the amount of time it takes to make a lasting—if flawed—impression? Will an entire story ever be properly told?
If you mute your expectation of a huge return on any emotional investment, Combat Camera is still a quick, entertaining read that will make you want to see how this particular scenario plays out.