Monday, September 24, 2018


"A man's mind is its own kind of hell."
I've been interested in reading David Joy's books for years but there's only so much time in a day and I'm only now getting to them. It's now time to make his work a real priority. It's been a while since I've been truly impressed with a writer's wordplay. The last time was probably when I discovered the work of the great Tom Piccirilli. But David Joy is up there now. There were passages that I really wanted to read again just to simply savor. But I was also surprised by how fast of a read this was, given the heavy content.

The story begins with an accidental killing deep in the woods, with deceit and cover-up eventually leading to an exploration of murder, redemption, true love, sacrifice, and primal justice. The story isn't necessarily original but it's classic storytelling with rich characterizations and a powerful, commanding voice.
The tears would wane only when something greater found him. Only one feeling could mask that kind of sadness, only one emotion he knew more powerful than suffering. In time, it would fill him.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

THE MAN WHO CAME UPTOWN by George Pelecanos

The work of George Pelecanos has a special place in my heart. I've read every single one of his books  and they always leave me affected in some way. I know many people complain about his constant focus on the minutiae of his native Washington D.C. and popular culture references, but there's something about it that adds to the experience and the charm. His latest book is classic Pelecanos and one of his most instantly reader-friendly, which is saying a lot, because he's known for that.

In it, a young man is recently released from jail with a new love of books and a new determination to make his life better. He's then torn between two influences after his release, the jail librarian and the slightly bent private detective responsible for his release.

Again, Pelecanos focuses not only on what it means to be a man but also what it takes to get there. He has such an acute sense of character that sometimes the skill can sneak right past you. There are no heroes or villains here, just different people trying to make it for themselves, who happen to make different decisions to get there. Phil Ornazian is especially a great three-dimensional character. His adoration for his wife and kids made me root for him and want him to succeed, but he constantly wonders where along his path of life his actions suddenly turned crooked. Also, with a less aware writer, the handling of a slight romance angle in the story that could have gone another way, but here it is surprisingly tasteful, mature, and truly refreshing.

The book is not only a love letter to reading and the life-changing quality books have (and also a great excuse for Pelecanos to sport his great taste!), but like in the book Northline (a major reference here), it's also really about small kindnesses and how they can change not only someone else's life, but your's as well.

Pelecanos's books are crime novels but he's not a heavy plotter; the action is uncomplicated and the prose is simple, direct, and workman-like. But the power and charm here is in the small, everyday life things: from the small increase in salary at the new job or the gradual connection with coworkers there, to the banter between violent prisoners during a book club debate, or even a simple walk in the District rain. It's easy for a reader to argue against giving an A-score to a Pelecanos book, because it all may seem too simple and unadorned. But this book made me want to be a better man after reading it, so there's really only one score I can give it.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

GALVESTON by Nic Pizzolatto

This short, moody novel opens with a mob muscle/strongarm guy named Roy Cady finding out that he's diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. While accepting his imminent death, he fatefully crosses paths with a young prostitute named Rocky who ends up on the run with him.  It's a gorgeously written debut novel with sequences that took my breath away. There's a scene where Roy visits an old girlfriend where you can feel his yearning for the past oozing out of the words, even while she remembers that past very differently. There are also tender scenes between Roy and Rocky where they open up to each other and you can truly feel the connection in the pages.
I wanted to shout, but it dawned on me that all my objections involved the future, and I didn’t really have one.
The atmosphere in this one hypnotized me. Pizzolatto's prose shines here; his writing is equal parts lyrical and woeful, at times filled with both beauty and brutality as he tells this story of two broken souls who first find each other at their most hopeless, but end up providing one another with a light in all the darkness.
You’re here because it’s somewhere. Dogs pant in the streets. Beer won’t stay cold. The last new song you liked came out a long, long time ago, and the radio never plays it anymore.