Tag: McCarthy

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Posted May 20, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom FranklinTitle: Crooked Letter Crooked Letter (Goodreads)
Author: Tom Franklin
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2010
Pages: 318
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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When another girl disappears, suspicion falls on the suspect of a twenty year old missing persons case. Larry has been living a solitary life never being able to escape the whispers of suspicion, now another girl disappears, it is starting all over again. Old boyhood friend Salas is now in law enforcement and this new case forces both men to confront the past that they have buried for so long.

Tom Franklin lived in a small southern town in Alabama, and while struggling to make it as an author he went through multiple manual labour jobs and once worked for the city morgue. In 1997 he got his first break when his short story collection, Poachers was named Best First Book of Fiction by Esquire. Since then he has been having great success with southern crime novels, winning a few awards, including the Edgar Award (for Poachers, a short story found in the book of the same name) and The Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger (awarded for best crime novel of the year) for Crooked Letter Crooked Letter.

This novel has been compared to the works of Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy, so I went in to this novel expecting a good southern crime novel and this is what I got. Except there was a little more in this novel, while you have the elements you expect, I never expected the book to explore the idea of being misunderstood and isolation. From the beginning of the novel Larry is shot and yet he is sympathetic towards his mystery attacker. He even forgave him because “all monsters were misunderstood”.

The idea that Larry thinks of himself as a monster brings up some interesting concepts, which I really want to explore but that would lead to some spoilers. He even owns an old monster mask which is hugely symbolic when it comes to the concept of being a monster living within society. This mask plays a big role throughout the novel and what it represents within each scene it shows up in only served to increase my enjoyment in exploring Crooked Letter Crooked Letter.

The relationship between Larry and Salas is an interesting one; they were childhood friends living in Mississippi in 1970. Larry comes from a working class family while Salas is an African American, I was expecting a lot to do with racism around their friendship, being a southern novel but Franklin went a whole different route.  Instead he explored their changing relationship from kids to adults, with the pressure of the world and the suspicion placed on Larry. This was unexpected and it added a really interesting look into the two characters relationship.

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The title of this novel references an old American children’s song used to learn how to spell Mississippi and I’ve never heard of it. Being an Australian, it is odd that we were taught how to spell Mississippi as children as well; we were never expected to spell other American states so it seems weird. Though I was taught differently and I’ve found out my wife learnt it a different way to that too. Not really important to the novel except knowing where the book is set but it a interesting thought to have about the ways we learnt to spell this word.

This is a relatively morbid novel but I honestly was hoping for something as dark as The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock (seriously I need more like this novel) but as far as melancholic books, this one is worth check out. Not only does it have some interesting themes that I think are worth exploring, I found the prose lyrical and in parts stunning. It is not without its flaws and I don’t want to go into those, for fear of spoilers but I still think highly of Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin; he seems to draw a lot from Cormac McCarthy’s style, so check it out.

The Son by Philipp Meyer

Posted April 11, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Son by Philipp MeyerTitle: The Son (Goodreads)
Author: Philipp Meyer
Published: Ecco, 2013
Pages: 576
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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The Son is a multigenerational saga spanning three generations. This unforgettable Texas family’s story plays out from the three perspectives, each with their own hardships from Comanche and border raids to the oil boom. This is a story of power, blood, and the land; Philipp Meyer explores the American dream and the dark roots of which it came.

I’ve been meaning to pick up American Rust for a while now but instead The Son is the first look at the remarkable writing of Philipp Meyer. The Son follows three main characters of a Texas family: Eli, his son Pete and Pete’s Granddaughter Jeanne, each with their own set of issues to deal with. Overall this is a novel of the rise of a Texas oil dynasty and the demons facing them.

 First the McCullough family is an old frontier family taking the land from the natives; the first character Eli (born in 1836) tells the story of being early settlers. But he soon finds himself being the sole survivor after being raided by the Comanche. His story is one that shows both sides, being taken captive and then learning the ways of the American natives. Confronting him and the reader with the idea of heritage from both the settlers and natives view point.

His son Peter, not only has to deal with his father’s violent past but also the Mexican border raids of the early 1900s. This is a very emotionally driven narrative, his father who has obviously had to adapt to Comanche life only to watch them die out with disease, starvation and the discrimination of settlers. Now Eli has a drive for power and Peter shares this story, how it effects the family, all while defending their land from raiding Mexicans.

Finally we have Jeanna, her story is not so violent but confronting none the less. Her story follows the Oil booms of the 20th century, the social and economy changing all while dealing with the demons of her family history. She is left to deal with most of the major consequences of her family’s choices in the past, while trying to succeed in business in a male dominated industry and world.

This is an epic adventure of wealth, privilege, family and the consequences of our actions. While it is a pretty dark subject matter, the book is rather elegant and beautiful. The prose alone makes it that way, Meyer really has created this wonderful scenery, yet I’ve not really noticed an overuse of similes. The writing style reminds me a little of John Steinbeck but there is an element of Cormac McCarthy that comes through as well, especially in Eli’s story. Overall The Son is a compelling novel with some interesting ideas for the reader.

I was really impressed with this novel but with the constant changing of time periods and characters at times I did feel like I struggled to keep up but Philipp Meyer did manage to push the story on. Historical Fiction with shades of western and southern gothic is how I would describe this novel but there is so much more to it than that. This is the second book in the American trilogy planned by Meyer, all dealing with issues facing America. American Rust with the towns that modern economy leave behind when all the factories move and The Son rather than dealing with a declining America, it deals with its dark past full of the blood and bones on the natives. I can’t wait to read American Rust and I’m interested to know what book three would be about but that may be awhile out. For now it check out Philipp Meyer’s works he has the makings of a great American author.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Posted August 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Western / 0 Comments

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthyTitle: Blood Meridian (Goodreads)
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Published: Vintage, 1985
Pages: 337
Genres: Historical Fiction, Western
My Copy: Personal Copy

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I’ve wanted to read another Cormac McCarthy book after enjoying The Road so after a long time of sitting on my To-Read shelf; I decided it was about time to give Blood Meridian a go. This is probably McCarthy’s most known book; other than the Pulitzer winning The Road. Narrated by a runaway known as the “the kid”, Blood Meridian follows the Glanton gang scalp hunters as they massacred North American tribes. Judge Holden is the main antagonist and is an intelligent man but terrifying with his constant need for conflict and violence.

I often enjoy books’ aspects from history to make a compelling story; James Ellroy and Hilary Mantel come to mind when thinking of authors that do this well and now Cormac McCarthy. As an author McCarthy is rather brilliant, he knows how to spin an entertaining and intelligent story with wonderful prose for a book of intense violence and bleak environments. I’ve not read many Westerns but if this is anything to go on then I might have to read some more.

Blood Meridian has very environmental and character driven and it was a real pleasure to read. But then there is an aspect of this book that I really didn’t like. The violence and horror aspects of this book is not for the faint hearted, and I tend to enjoy these elements but even for me I feel like maybe Cormac McCarthy took it a little too far; to a sickening level. This is like reading a nightmare; the acts of violence are so intense and evil that even I was disturbed.

This book is not for everyone, it’s a hellish read and Cormac McCarthy brilliance does seem to be drowned out by the blood of Judge Holden’s victims. I couldn’t recommend this book to anyone as it is really intense, but if you think you can handle it, it’s worth reading. The book is fairly dense when comparing it to The Road, but it was still an interesting look at the disturbing nature of Judge Holden and the Glanton gang.


The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Posted August 5, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

The Dog Stars by Peter HellerTitle: The Dog Stars (Goodreads)
Author: Peter Heller
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2012
Pages: 336
Genres: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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The Dog Stars is really a stylised book full of interesting characters and quirks. Peter Heller’s novel is a story of a pilot who has survived a pandemic flu that has killed off most of the world’s population.  He’s lost his wife and is living in a hangar of an abandoned airfield with his dog and his only neighbour is a misanthrope. He is now living in a world filled with loss, what will he risk to rediscover himself and reconnect with other survivors? Will he go against all odds just to make a connection?

This book has an interesting blend of literary fiction and dystopian adventure, it reminds me a little of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in that aspect. The characters are great in the book, with their flaws and interesting personalities. I think Peter Heller did a great job with the characters. The book at times tends to be dark and gritty which works well with the sense of the end of the world and the violence that would assume such an event. But then at times the book seems over descriptive and sometimes feels too flowery and nice which never really seemed to match this dystopian novel.

There are so many great elements in this book but there are other aspects of the book that didn’t work for me. My main problem with the narrative; it felt almost experimental, trying to do something that didn’t quite work for this style of book. It is written in a first person perspective but also written in a past tense, so you have a feeling that everything will be ok and no sense of tension throughout the novel. At times the sentence feels broken and disjointed, I’m not sure if this is an attempt to show that the narrator is unreliable but I don’t think it worked too well in this kind of novel.

The Dog Stars is a remarkably unique novel and there are some great aspects of this novel to sink your teeth into. It was a captivating and enjoyable ride; even if I had issues with the narrative and at times felt bored with the story. The characters in the novel were definitely the highlight of this book but the adventure helped move the plot along. Personally if I compare this book with Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, I would recommend it over The Dog Stars, but this doesn’t mean you should overlook this novel.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Posted July 26, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Horror / 13 Comments

The Passage by Justin CroninTitle: The Passage (Goodreads)
Author: Justin Cronin
Series: The Passage #1
Published: Ballantine Books, 2010
Pages: 766
Genres: Horror
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and considering The Twelve is only months away, I figure now was a good time to read it. The Passage is set in the not too distant future; a highly contagious virus has infected the greater masses turning them into vampire-like creatures. This is not your typical post-apocalyptic novel; The Passage follows the events for ninety years, starting with the outbreak and patient zero till the colonies of humans attempt to live in a world filled with these creatures.

I went into this novel expecting a post-apocalyptic vampire novel but I was presently surprised with this book. It was pure joy reading something so literary spanning from the apocalypse to the fight for human survival. I’m finding it really difficult to review this book, because I was impressed with it but I need to try and be a little critical because over all I don’t think I could rate the book more than 4 stars.

To begin with this book has so many characters, I was often lost with what was happening with all the characters, I had to keep a note pad and write down little things to remember just to keep my head straight. Simple things like ‘Amy; main protagonist, infected with a form of the virus which has made her immune.’ This has distracted me from fully enjoying this book, but when I had my head straight with all the vital characters, I was able to relax and enjoy the ride this novel took me on.

I also felt this book may have been far too long, but on reflection I can’t really think of anything that I would take out. It wasn’t repetitive and all the plot points just helped flesh out and make the characters interesting and three dimensional. I love how Justin Cronin gives you a story for each character but never really influences the reader to whether or not you like the character. In the end this just makes different people like different characters and the writer’s influence never seems to be a part to the decision making progress.

This is a beautifully written character driven story of survival and humanity. I find myself remembering what it was like reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy; another post-apocalyptic novel that I would also consider literary. The joys of reading something so wonderful and still feel like you are reading genre fiction; it’s a great feeling. Please, don’t be put off but the size of this book, it’s a wonderful read. Having finished the book, my biggest problem is that book two; The Twelve doesn’t come out to October and the final book in the trilogy; The City of Mirrors isn’t set for release till 2014.