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Now this is a summer read right up my tutu! Pulpy, Southern Gothic-ish, third-person single narrative, chocked full of wild shit like mucho alcohol, fumbling sex, slug-loaded shotguns, rambling, outrageous plots and groan-inducing scenes, plus descriptions like “her slick, nodular breasts bob like drenched minks' heads”(Delta TPB 0385318332, 248 pages p.97). All it took was two, page-turning sessions to finish this imprudent foolishness.

This is the sad story of one poor fuck named John Moon. Living in a trailer on an acre of his Papa's lost farm in upper state New York, his woe-is-me attitude is compounded by looking out upon that farmland of his lost inheritance, a recent split-up with his wife Moira and boy child that's headed for divorce, and a string of crap jobs like black tar asphalt on roadways. With no money, he decides to execute his master hunting skills and do a little poaching in the wee hours of the morn. And, wouldn't you know it, he bangs a 10-pointer just off mark and has to bushwhack the blood trail, ending in an abandoned quarry where he takes his kill shot, only to discover he's inadvertently murdered a teenage girl in the bushes. She's a runaway who's been camped out waiting for her boyfriend, and she's hoarding a bag of money, probably ill-gained.

Now John's seriously impacted by shooting her, but he's also grateful for the windfall he's found, as he sees a new life for himself back together with Moira and his son. There's certainly a No Country For Old Men, c. 2005, whiff here, but the story snakes in such different ways as to not further identify its stink.

Moira doesn't respond well to his frantic pestering, even when he tries to persuade her with 2k left in her car. John speculates she's got a boyfriend. He makes other imbecilic errors which only chalk-lines him to the boys who want that $5600 moneybag. John's beginning to spend his time in a “blindered, half-drunk state”(p.55), yet he's starting to see his mistakes, like leaving the dead girl's body at the quarry. Backtracking, he finds an empty cave where she was stashed. Natch, things get spooky: a sinister black Blazer is seen on the backroads around John's spread, then Mutt his hounddog is shot and killed. An older mentor/homeboy even wilder than John shows up with 2 partygirls for some swimming and orgy fun. If John was wilier in his thinking, he'd see this as a casing, because later, when he comes home to a ransacked trailer and the dead girl laying on his bed, it's pretty obvious some shadowy, menacing dude is on to him.

After intimidating a waitress, he runs down a lead on the menacing dude's cohort, only to find him

 

Naked from the waist up, his head inclining precariously to one side and his mouth agape as if in stunned disbelief, reacting to what's playing on the television in front of him. Cut clear to the spine, his throat oozes a thin line of his blood, and the rug beneath him is soaked where much of it has already pumped out. His face and chest are marred by circular red lesions that look like cigarette burns. The tip of his nose, his upper lip, and his left ear have been sliced off .

--p.140-1

 

Now this is quite a game-changer for John. So, adding the fact that Moira's gone missing, possibly kidnapped for future ransom, he's done. He drops the moneybag off to a crippled midget lawyer he knows through restraining orders from his wife to give to Waylon the Badguy. The mini-lawyer, after being force-fed a pillow, confesses Moira's merely on vacation for the weekend.

After a night out “beneath a cloudless sky breached by stars” where John feels “perfectly at ease in this world”(p.166), he moseys over to Simon's—he's the older mentor/homeboy—and finds a house full of livestock and Simon on a 2-3 day binge. Simon stutters the whole thing out, like where the money came from and his role in the bloody mess. He asks John to shoot him and send him on down to that fiery place he's already been sentenced to. Refusing, John leaves, but hears the shotgun before he's off the porch.

Coming home to pack out, Abbie, the neighbor's teen girl, shows up. John barely keeps her away from the refer where the dead girl is stored. Then Waylon appears, immediately putting a knife to Abbie's throat and making demands. After sawing off John's right hand trigger finger, John confesses the money's in the truck up the hill. With Waylon shouting out his carving instructions on Abbie, John manages the hill and the truck and the ought-six in the rear window rack. Scoping down on Waylon, he blows him away, completing the circle of tragic misfortune ignited in the beginning of the novel.

If this were a Hollywood film, John would be absolved by the arriving police, and he'd marry Abbie and help her Dad work the land he should have inherited but can now claim as part of him again. Instead, he circles back to his trailer after the fuzz have left, gets the dead girl and heads into the woods to bury her along with the money. Unfortunately, his severed finger has given him a massive infection, and, as he digs the grave way too deep, he discovers he can't crawl out of it. Seen earlier in the area, a couple shows up at gravesite and pronounces him dead as the dead girl, grabs the money, and splits, never even reading the penned confession John has pinned to his chest.

This is a wonderfully-plotted and conceived story. The sense of loss manifests itself through self-pity, but the feeling of terrible guilt over deeds done dirty blankets the novel like leaves on the forest floor. John's mistakes are human and forgivable, yet the savage wonder and temperamental beauty of a disassociating cosmos determines his life. The fawn John finds and saves in the woods exists in the same ironic world as he does, while strangers bury him alive in his own, self-made grave.

A comedy of errors, yes. But one that'll wedge into your ribs for awhile like a well-honed skinning blade.

 

 

© copyright 08/14/2013 by Larry Crawford

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