Monday, February 7, 2011

Edgar Nominees: GALVESTON by Nic Pizzolatto

Being possessed of more old books than I can possibly read (or re-read) in a lifetime, I don't get around to many new ones. But I thought I'd sample a few of this year's Edgar nominees, just to see what's shakin'. Here's the first.

It's no surprise Galveston is one of the five nominees for Best First Novel. Though categorized as a thriller, it's more properly a literary novel about a couple of characters who just happen to have criminal backgrounds. Our tarnished hero, Roy Cady, is working as muscle for a New Orleans loan-shark when he visits a doctor and is told he's terminally ill. Before he can come to terms with the idea, the boss tries to have him taken out - merely because he was a former lover of the boss's latest squeeze.

Roy turns the tables on the hitmen and flees toward Texas, taking with him a young hooker unlucky enough to be on the scene. That sounds like a thriller plot, I'll admit, but it comprises only the first 20 pages of the book. From there on, this is the story of how Roy and the hooker Rocky (short for Raquel) deal with each other, with their personal demons, and their bleak prospects for the future.

There is a clever plot at work, deep in the background, but you seldom notice it. The focus is always on the characters, their problems and their relationship. The author wisely resists allowing Roy and Rocky to become romantically - or even sexually - involved, forging a relationship that is even more powerful.

Pizzolatto's prose is tight, the characters sharp, and atmosphere tense. The story is both tough and touching. Rather than a thriller, I'd have this one a compeller. Once those first 20 pages were out of the way, I was just plain compelled to keep reading. And I was glad I did. The book built to a bittersweet finish that left me thoroughly satisfied, and thorough impressed with Nic Pizzolatto's talent. I'm already looking forward to his next novel.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Like you, I have many many old books to get too, and it seems these days at least 2/3rds of the new books I buy are by friends.