Thursday, September 3, 2009

Read: "Give Us A Kiss" by Daniel Woodrell

Read: Give Us A Kiss: a country noir by Daniel Woodrell, 1996, 0805022988.

Damn good. Excellent writing. The third real good novel in row. This was recommended by Anthony Neil Smith much like Cottonwood was. Smith was listing "rural noir" books and Give was here on the shelf. Smith continues to be slightly good for something.

Doyle Redmond is Ozark born and mostly bred. He spent some time growing up in Kansas City and ended up getting college money by pulling an armed robbery with his older brother, Smoke. Redmond is now in his mid-thirties and a mostly unsuccessful novelist who doubles up as a college instructor. Doyle gets fed up with his wife when she starts fucking a visiting poet to advance her career. Doyle steals his wife's Volvo and heads home to K.C. While in K.C. his parents get Doyle to head to Southern Missouri to convince Smoke to turn himself in on some Kansas warrants since the cops are giving their parents grief.

Doyle heads down to West Table, MO. Sees his grandfather, Panda. Expresses the importance of family in the Ozarks. Relates the ongoing and occasionally violent feud with the Dolly family. Tells tale of Panda murdering a local Dolly and losing the family land to pay the law bill and bribes. Doyle meets up with Smoke. Doyle falls for the hot 19-year-old daughter of Smoke's girlfriend. Doyle joins Smoke in growing, harvesting, and selling a marijuana crop. Doyle kills one of the Dolly's intent on stealing said crop. Doyle and the rest get ambushed by Dollys when trying to sell the crop. Doyle goes and kills a super mean Dolly he thinks killed Smoke in ambush. Smoke turns up alive. Doyle's looking at big book sales for due to"crime writer commits crime" publicity.

I felt no connection to the name Doyle. Which seems odd since the name is fairly rare and I have two relatives with the name. Doyle follows the main details of Woodrell's own life: Ozarks native, joined Marines in his teens, late college grad, college instructor, crime novelist with poor sales. I'll bet he got a lot of stupid questions relating the novel's plot and characters to his bio.

I don't have much else to say. Woodrell uses the the hilly and wooded setting to his advantage. Doyle is one of those noir characters that it takes a while to understand and learn about. I was frustrated at times because Woodrell took his time in filling in intentional gaps about Doyle.

Woodrell's Redmonds are a crime family. They are mostly legal now but have a violent history that pulls Doyle in. That family history really influences Doyle who wants to live up to that history and gain approval from relatives living and dead. Doyle is not reluctant though, he accepts and consciously chooses his path. At the end Doyle gets a postcard from an imprisoned relative saying Doyle will be welcome if he doesn't beat his murder rap.

We have another Woodrell book, 2006's Winter's Bone, which I ordered; I sure don't remember doing so. It too is set in the Ozarks and is short at 193 pages.

1 comment:

J F Norris said...

Woodrell really is one of the out and out best of the contemporary crime writers. The movie of Winter's Bone should finally give him the huge readership he more than deserves. Another case of Long Time Coming. He's also snapped up a few literary awards outside of the crime fiction world.