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Speed Queen Paperback – September 2, 2001

3.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Stewart O'Nan's The Speed Queen opens on Oklahoma's death row. Marjorie Standiford, scheduled to die that night for the murder of 12 people, dictates the story of her life into a tape recorder. Before she goes, she wants to set the record straight. It seems that one of her accomplices, Natalie, has already produced a bestselling book on the subject, and Marjorie doesn't want to be outdone. Her tape will be sent to an unnamed writer known as the King of Horror with a list of titles identical to those of Stephen King.

It's evident why a horror writer might be interested in Marjorie's story--the details of her life are pretty darned horrifying. A deep love of cars is what attracts Marjorie to her husband, Lamont, in the first place; an unplanned pregnancy is what pushes them into marriage. In the early days of their love affair, driving around in Lamont's convertible with the baby in the back and doing a little speed on the side is enough, but possession leads to prison time for Marjorie. There she meets Natalie, who will complete their deadly triangle. Once on the outside, Natalie, Marjorie, and Lamont start mainlining speed, then dealing it, and before long, a landscape of drive-thru restaurants and convenience stores becomes the backdrop for a series of gruesome murders. Marjorie may not be the most reliable narrator, but she is an original one, and The Speed Queen provides one heck of a joy ride. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Guilt looks innocent in this latest novel by O'Nan, named one of Granta's 20 best young American novelists. Narrator Marjorie Standiford waits on Oklahoma's death row for her role in the infamous "Sonic" drive-in killings. America's "King of Horror" (a never-named Stephen King) buys the rights to Marjorie's story, and she is given a tape recorder and more than 100 questions to answer in the hours before her death. The questions range from the mundane ("What did we wear that day?") to the impossible ("Why did I do it?"). Each answer blurs the line between good and evil, which is easier to draw without human details. Marjorie's ingenuous and wry voice reveals her essential badness--a weakness for cars and speed, both vehicular and drug-related--and makes it almost understandable. As Marjorie says, "I was there but I didn't kill anyone." Technically she's right: she's the get-away girl who participates in crimes like she's watching TV. Her tragic road trip through America's quiet towns and highways lulls us into detachment, and innocence redefined. Deanna Larson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (September 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802138535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138538
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, A Prayer for the Dying, Last Night at the Lobster, and Emily, Alone. Granta named him one of America's Best Young Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Speed Queen is the exciting story of Marjorie, a death-row inmate from Oklahoma who is waiting to be executed. The woman reflects on her troubled drug-fueled life, and gives the reader a detailed description of her childhood, how she met her friends and came in contact with drugs before she ultimately reports about the crimes they have committed, and which are the reason why she has been sentenced.
Marjorie bluntly reveals the most intimate secrets of her love triangle, -between her, her girlfriend Natalie and her husband Lamont-, gives deep insight in what it is to be to be married to a car loving drug dealer, having a baby and living a life on speed.
The author's unique style of writing is a hallmark of this novel: song names, movies, books, drugs, local drive-thru restaurants and their menues - when reading this story the reader comes across numerous proper names, most of them only Stephen King fans, local citizens, junkies and car addicts have heard of. However, this does not affect the story negatively. The every-day language matches the story perfectly, yet it does not get too coloquial and after a few pages one quickly gets familiar with O'Nan's style and is introduced to the realistic world of Marjorie that is exciting, beautiful, strange and brutal at the same time.
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Format: Paperback

I am a total fan of Stewart O'Nan. If you haven't read him, do. He writes like no one can and writes well. He tells tales out of school in a dark, quirky, funny, sad, most believeable way. He makes you remember his books forever.

We meet Marjorie Standiford who is going to meet her Maker. She is on Death Row in an Oklahoma prison. She is one of the three 'Sonic Killers' and is telling her life story to none other than Stephen King. It is mere hours before her execution. She always, to the end of the book, maintains she is innocent. Is she? Will she receive yet another stay of execution? Is her story true?

Marjorie tells the tale of her childhood, meeting her husband, Lamont, having a child, and meeting her lover, Natalie. All her memories are excellent and full of details, jumping back and forth between past and present, full of suspense and constantly making the reader wonder if she is, in fact, innocent of these horrible murders.

Marjorie is involved in drinking, drugs, and after meeting and marrying Lamont, they get deeply involved in drugs and dealing. They live for cars, drugs, and rock and roll. When they meet up with Natalie things go bad quickly for all of them.

This is a good book. It is not for everyone, it left me feeling squeamish at times. The book reads well and doesn't disappoint. While constantly wondering about Marjorie being innocent of horrid murders, I could not help but like her and root for her. However, at the same time, she is someone scary and unstable enough that you certainly wouldn't want to be involved with her. O'Nan creates such vivid characters who, good or bad or just plain wicked, you cannot help liking.

Highly recommend this book, although it's not for everyone due to the content and situations.

Thank you!

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Format: Paperback
any book you can't put down-literally can't put it down, sticking like tar paper-is a good one, all literary merit aside. all o'nan i've read has literary merit, and this one's no different, but what gets you is the story, the rawness, the realness, the poignancy, the drawing you in, the resonation afterwards. the speed queen does all this and your heart palpitates with hers and it's real and it's horrific yet you're detached, like marjorie, like you can be sometimes in life. you feel her impending doom in your bowels the whole time. it's mainlining literature and feels like flying downhill, on fire, and not caring at all about the crash because it just feels too good.
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Format: Paperback
I have not read such a creepily compelling first-person narrative in a long time as Stewart O'Nan's noir novel, THE SPEED QUEEN. It's a book that's been around for over fifteen years now. The fact that it's stayed in print has to tell you something.

If you want to read this, you'd better clear a good-sized chunk of time, because this is one of those rare books you'll want to read in one sitting. Narrator Marjorie Standiford, a convicted murderer spending her last night on Death Row, is a piece of work, and a character that will hang around in your consciousness for some time. And it's not a 'spoiler' when I tell you she is dictating - and dedicating - her story to her favorite writer: "For my dear Stephen King." I'm not a King fan myself, but I have a feeling that Marjorie's natural, unfiltered voice has got to be scarier than anything King ever invented.

Drugs, kinky sex, robbery, murder, fast cars - you name it; all that stuff is in here. You will be reminded of In Cold Blood, Thelma & Louise, Badlands, and there's maybe even a tiny taste of Tony Hillerman in there. Stewart O'Nan is a writer with an unparalleled and powerful imagination, but he does his groundwork too, and the result, this time, is THE SPEED QUEEN. This is a book that will grab you by the scruff of the neck early on and thrust you forward into one of the most unbelievably ugly, sad and fascinating reads in contemporary noir fiction since Jim Thompson. If you like that kind of stuff, I recommend this book highly.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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