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Speed Queen
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on November 27, 2009
I titled this review "quietly shocking" because that's how this character study hit me. The lead character speaks about herself and her history, and her crimes in a matter of fact fashion, from her jail cell. She is dictating it to a fictional writer who will tell her story to the public, this writer is reminiscent of Stephen King. It's a straightforward telling, the horror of this ordinary seeming young women, is not immediately obvious. Her very plain spoken revelation, takes a minute to sink in in all it's import and makes you fear for number of others like her, that must surely be out there. This is not a supernatural tale though you might wish it were.
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on April 18, 2002
The clock is ticking, and death row inmate Marjorie Standiford knows it. Her demise is scheduled but her determination to set the record straight as far as she is concerned is paramount.
Marjorie has become famous, noted as the "Speed Queen" for her appetite for speed, fast cars and her criminal history. Her last night is spent huddled up with a tape recorder as she recounts her personal history and the chilling events that culminated into a night of total terror.
Equally bizarre is the contrast of Marjorie as a mother of a young son and her relationship with another woman that becomes the fuse for the bomb ready to blow. Narrated to a writer well versed in horror, her story does hit new levels in brutal crime. How does one get caught up in such a situation, how is it that others influence so deeply what course an event takes?
Truly, a unique novel, as unique as O'Nan is with all his books. I am always ready to experience something new with O'Nan and he did not fail to deliver another thriller.
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on August 20, 2015
Interesting novel. I would have given it five stars if the author had gone a bit deeper into the psychological aspects of the main characters.
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on May 30, 2016
Love eveything O'Nan writes, so....????
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on May 6, 2013
Stewart O'Nan is an amazing writer. This book is like nothing I've read before. It would make a great movie. His book "A prayer for the dying" is amazing- even better than this book! He is a very talented writer.
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on November 11, 2007
I've read a couple of outstanding novels by O'Nan ("The Night Country," "Prayer for Dying"), so I was sort of looking forward to this one. Sort of? Well, I'll admit, I was a little worried since the story, without having read it, sounded a lot like "Badlands." I wondered, before going in, if this was just a reworking of what has become an American story where a young couple of social misfits go out in a bloody blaze of gunfire and weird love. If only the Speed Queen had of had that kind of narrative coherence going for it!

The Speed Queen fails on a number of levels. Even its unique Stephen King is-writing-my-story twist wears on you after a bit. By novel's end, it's a stale gimmick. The novel is all bits and pieces of a story. By themselves, these bits and pieces are interesting. Dialogue and descriptive passages are often dead-on, which makes this novel such a frustrating read. Oh, the possibilities! Marjorie drinks a lot, though it's never really clear why. Her parents were pretty kinky, but can you trust her, since she has her own sex toy issues? Like a lot of death row types, she's found Jesus on the eve of her state mandated destruction. She's discovers she's bisexual, after a short stint in prison. She loves her kid, she does speed. She kills -- reluctantly, though reading in-between the lines, you doubt that. What a mess! So yes, you have "Badlands," a bit of "In Cold Blood," and neither of those stories' cold-hearted integrity. The book is dedicated to Stephen King. He deserved better.
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VINE VOICEon April 4, 2009

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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on June 23, 2016
While awaiting news on if her death sentence will be overturned, Marjorie Standiford sets the record straight on the wildly violent, drug-fueled journey that has led her to this moment.

Attention all Stephen King fans! This book is such a fun read. O'Nan's decision in having Marjorie recount her life story for the master or horror himself is icing on an already delicious cake. Jammed packed with humour, heart, twists and turns and literary references galore you'll speed through this as quickly as Marjorie speeds through her stash.

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on October 24, 2013
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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on April 26, 2010
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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