on January 25, 2012
Not since I read The Milagro Beanfield War and The Hotel New Hampshire have I encountered such eclectic, quirky characters in a story that is so much fun to read. I suppose one could make comparisons between all kinds of great books and this wonderful narrative, but one would be hard pressed to actually name a comparable book.
This story of a small group of individuals who, through a variety of mishaps and subversion on both personal and governmental levels, come together by way of opposition is as well put together as any I have read.
Davis O'Kane, the main character, is opposed to allowing his ex-wife to take his beloved twin daughters and ruin his life. Wanda Marie is opposed to getting too close to any one person and allowing love to overpower her individualism. Woody McGuire is opposed to actually making any money with "Future Glue", the racehorse he owns and bets on constantly. Future Glue is opposed to winning. Woody's wife, Kaitlyn, is opposed to being broke, or, it seems, encumbered by marriage. Rooster Rudd, incumbent mayoral candidate in the upcoming election in the town of Nightingale, Nevada, home of our adventure, is opposed to losing the election or any of his current power. Len Arizona, his opposition, is opposed to Rooster's corruption and graft further impacting his beloved Nightingale, where his Paiute uncle William had told him the Indian names for local landmarks, then admonished him to never speak them in front of the white man or risk giving "their places" away.
This small sample of the numerous, rich characters in this story in no way does justice to the artful way Loughran weaves them all into an exhilarating tale full of humor, depth and humanity in all its glory and all its faults. From beginning to end, the book places brick after brick in the structure of the tale, but does so in a creatively deceptive way so as to keep the reader just behind the truth. The result is an entertaining read that demands, and earns, your full attention and keeps you guessing right to the very end.
With that, I read this book in spurts through necessity while being forced to attend real life during the interim. It was excruciating, having to stop reading, and such a joy to return to. Loughran is a skilled narrator and a very creative architect of the overall story. Creative writing is all about developing a story and then finding the most appropriate way to economically present it in its most entertaining form. Loughran has done so in High Steaks! His juxtaposition of chronology of events and flow of story is flawless and serves to wrap the entirety of the tale into an incredibly complex, yet thoroughly understandable, package; gift, really. Few authors are able to separate themselves from the emotionality of their subject matter as well as Loughran has done here while still being able to keep the whole of the story in perspective and working things together into a final product that is so much more than the sum of its parts. The reader gets the feeling Loughran has rather strong feelings about cops, politicians, corporations and "authority", but he's able to step outside himself for the sake of the story and take brush in hand to paint a rather Rembrandt-esque, painterly canvas that, viewed from a distance, melds into a vision of lovliness. He has done with High Steaks, on the page, what a Scorsese or a David Lynch would do on the big screen, only he serves as the lighting engineer, cinematographer, editor and marketing agent as well.
This is a wonderful book that I will now be making time to read again (right after I read Tantric Zoo!), the way it should be read, in one sitting, much in the same manner one watches a favorite movie again to catch the subtleties they missed the first time. I am thrilled beyond description to have found Loughran's words and cannot wait to read more of them. I just hope that he makes more time in the future to write, for the literary world is lacking sufficient quantities of his kind of wit, humor and insightful storytelling.