by Daddy X
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt
Call it Absurd Cowboy Noir, set in 1850’s Oregon and California. Two idiot brothers—Charlie and Ely Sisters—one gets drunk and carries on while the other narrates their exploits with some attempt at God-given insight. Together, they don’t possess the wherewithal to travel the path most considerate of their fellow man. They have a wide reputation. Wherever they go, the name Sisters Brothers commands something less than respect. More like trepidation. Their business is murder for hire, plain and simple.
As we enter the story, Ely (the smarter one) becomes interested in a new fad: Brushing one’s teeth. He soon makes contact with a woman who shares his enthusiasm for this new phenomenon, the toothbrush becoming their common interest, which as far as Ely is concerned, could lead to love. Descriptions of how strange the foaming action of tooth powder feels, how refreshing to the mouth, make the reader wonder how people lived before the advent of daily dental hygiene. How did anybody ever get a date?
These guys are a hoot-and-a-half. Not unlike my recurring characters, Hank and Delbert, whose disturbing exploits have been presented on these pages.
In this adventure, the Sisters Brothers have been contracted by a client to kill someone across the state line. They travel down to Sacramento and San Francisco, gold rush territory. Reality constantly compromises their plans with double-crosses, croaked marks and general stupid mistakes. Hilarious, raw, but not without deeper profundities, offered by Ely in a period homespun perspective.
A fun read.
The Girls by Emma Cline
Currently #11 NYT best selling book in print. Tells of the more sinister aspects of the 60’s, recalling a Manson-like cult who prove to be more darkly craven than the trite philosophies espoused by the ‘family’.
Russell, head honcho of the group, is a character carved from cliché. In fact, this novel is well titled, given the central characters are all female. Yes, there’s Russell the guru. Presented as charismatic leader (along with several other males, significant only for plot logistics) drawn with such transparent brush strokes that Russell functions primarily as a springboard to launch Evie’s character-driven story: Her intellectual and emotional development under the family’s thrall.
An introverted 14 year-old, desperate for connection, finds a group of older girls that she views as kindred spirits. The thrust of this effective work is to follow her while she processes this new, intriguing way of life.
Evie’s infatuation with the girls nurtures her attempts to connect with their so-called family. Why do they seem so free? Yet so dedicated. What makes them live and act the way they do, so obviously beyond the accepted in everyday company? How the young women find relevance in their lives, competing among others with the same obsession. How jealousies are masked and repurposed. How groupthink shapes perception of any perversion of the ideal. How retribution accelerates in an isolated social ‘scene’. How it affects the MC, who views this all as a learning phenomenon.
Told in a refreshing, spare style, using lots of incomplete sentences and colons. Common words employed in creative new ways delight the reader. Expertly winding the story through layers of chronology and situations, Cline holds our undivided attention. Effective connection, notable in its absence of connective tissue. Not a word wasted.
Blue Dads was written by a friend, Carlos Castillo, who used to run a local bricks-and-mortar book store, The Loveable Rogue. When my fledgling book, The Gonzo Collection first came out, Carlos sponsored an author event that actually drew a few people I didn’t know, in addition to some stalwart friends. :>)
Over-the-hill reporter Stan Fenilkopf lands a job at a small-town rag that is slowly going out of business, as many local newspapers are in this glut of internet information. In a California valley town somewhere east of LA, there is a group of businessmen called “The Dads” whose raison d’etre is funding and selecting students for a college scholarship program. It doesn’t take long for Stan to figure out that the Dads are not quite what they appear to be. He does his due diligence, ferretting out the group within the group, “Blue Dads” who get their kicks compromising the more susceptible female candidates in the program, involving the lovelies in orgies. This is not erotica, but Castillo does manage to heat things up, not necessarily in detailed sexual imagery, but in giving the reader enough that the imagination takes over. Subtle, but effective.
This is a delightfully complex tale of twists and turns, spying, lying and subterfuge, delivered in a journalistic style.
NOT available on Amazon.
Mr. Castillo still runs The Loveable Rogue on-line: