Thursday, July 26, 2007

Re-Read: "Dirty White Boys" by Stephen Hunter

Re-Read: Dirty White Boys by Stephen Hunter, 0679437517, 1994.

Real good book.

I first picked this up in '95 at the UGX when looking at new books. I cannot remember what made me take it off the shelf but the first line is a grabber, "Three men at McAlester State Penitentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye, but all were black and therefore, by Lamar's own figuring, hardly human at all." I really liked the book in '95 and have been reading Hunter's novels ever since.

A professional criminal and convict, Lamar is wicked smart and ruthless. He and his barely functioning, retarded cousin Odell have been in and out of prison together since kids. Lamar kills a black convict when the convict tries to rape him and knows that his own gang has cut him loose and he is fair game for the black gangs. He quickly devises an escape plan and takes his cellmates Richard Peed and Odell with him.

Bud Pewtie, 48 year old sergeant in the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, is called out of bed at 4 AM to join the search for the escaped cons. Bud is partnered with young trooper Ted Pepper and assigned search duties. After lunch at a diner, Bud and Ted swing by a farmhouse on the request of the worried waitress who has a missing and elderly regular customer. Bud and Ted drive to the customer's remote farmhouse, get out of the car, start walking to the house, and are promptly ambushed by Lamar and Odell. Pepper gets a .45 in the head. Bud barely survives the gunfight. Scummy Lamar and his group escape. Pepper's widowed wife Holly and Bud continue their months old extra-marital affair. Bud and Lamar circle each other and violently meet two additional times.

Bud has been screwing Ted's wife Holly for awhile and the dishonesty and sneakiness of it has been eating him up. He has fallen for the 26 yr. old Holly and fallen out of love with his distant wife. Worried for his two teen sons, not wanting to hurt his wife, the scandal of screwing a dead cop's wife, and Holly pressuring him to leave his wife are a black weight over his head.

Some things about the novel that are interesting: Lamar is scum with good qualities (honesty, loyalty to family, bravery, intelligence) Bud is a good guy with bad qualities (dishonest to family, screwing partner's wife).

The good guys say "goddamn" a lot. The bad guys say "fuck" a lot.

A consistent strong point of Hunter's work is good gun writing. Hunter gives detail and description of firearms, tactics, and shooting that other writers are clueless about. You'll never read a line from Hunter about a "glock revolver".

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