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Two Trains Running: A Novel Hardcover – June 14, 2005
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The Amazon Book Review
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Justice, Rage, Retribution & Vachss
Best known for his series about Burke, a career criminal with a uniquely larcenous family, Andrew Vachss has penned a standalone novel sure to win new fans and delight those familiar with his earlier works. Set in the year 1959, Two Trains Running is a complex moral tale of family, violence, love, and atonement. Read our Amazon.com exclusive interview with Vachss.
Two Trains Running was selected by Amazon.com as their No. 1 Editors' Pick in Mystery & Thrillers for 2005.
Standalone Novels, Comics & Collections by Andrew Vachss
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The Getaway Man
Everybody Pays: Stories
Born Bad: Collected Stories
Another Chance to Get It Right
Hard Looks: Adapted Stories
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The Burke Series
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See the entire Burke series.
From Publishers Weekly
Vachss's latest, set in 1959, leaves recurring character Burke behind to explore the teeming, clannish, race-driven underside of American politics. The Southern town of Locke City, at the mountainous foot of the rust belt, has become the vice-driven fief of one Royal Beaumont, a wheelchair-bound "hillbilly" who indulges in casual incest and rules the town by force. When the New York mafia tries to cut in on the action, Beaumont fights back, determined to protect his stake—and the town's racial composition, especially with a stealthy local black militant cell gaining in strength. Michael Shalare's Irish mob arrives and proposes a truce on the grounds that once "our man" Kennedy gets in, the Italians will be "told" to leave, and racial as well as monetary order will be preserved. The book is broken by episodic bursts of dialogue with time-stamp headings ("1959 October 04 Sunday 20:46"); the dialogue itself doesn't feel differentiated enough from tough guy to tough guy, and smacks of faux periodisms. Some of what Greil Marcus called the "old, weird America" surfaces, but any scene with a woman in it yields awkward results. The pace is good and the plot is riveting, though the telescoped sociopolitics feel rigged from the start, as does a bloody climax.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
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I’m handing it out because I need help figuring it out. Such a wealth of information, and so relevant for how politics are formed in the world’s currently mightiest Empire.
I find myself agreeing with Bruen's superlatives. "Two Trains Running" is a remarkable novel that can be enjoyed on several different levels. On the surface, it is a kick-butt pulp crime fiction, a hardboiled and tight-lipped gem reminiscent of Jim Thompson or Raymond Chandler. A level deeper, you've got an authentic slice of late-Eisenhower America that includes the racial tension, gangs, drugs, and corruption not often depicted in the old "Happy Days" nostalgia typically associated with this era that was setting up the mayhem for the turbulent 60s. And then, running through it all is a near supernatural undercurrent that can only be described as weirdness - a surreal tone that reminds one of the brutal and bizarre "Sin City", Frank Miller's comic book nightmare brought to garish life on the big screen.
The story unfolds in Locke City, and decaying mid-America mill town run by wheelchair-bound boss Royal Beaumont and his unmarried sister Cynthia. Unlike most pulp fiction which it mimics - or perhaps parodies - Vachss' "Two Trains" is epic in scope - long and convoluted, with multiple subplots and even more messages to sort through and ponder. Beaumont brings to town Walker Dett, an enigmatic hit man hired to thwart encroachment by an emerging Mafioso. It is soon clear that Dett is not what he seems, but what he is is an entirely different matter. And if you're like me, he will having you guessing right up to the last bloody page.
A couple of words of caution: this is a long and complex novel that should not be read casually or sporatically. Vachss paints this masterpiece with lots of parallel stories and a rich set of characters, told in a staccato shorthand that may have you scratching your head and thumbing back through pages to pick up the thread. It is beautifully blunt and as far from politically correct as you can get, so the more sensitive readers may be offended by frequent use of racial slurs blatant bigotry. But in the end this is a brilliant example of crime fiction smashed together with cutting social commentary, a vivid and intelligent story that will not easily be forgotten. Bravo, Mr. Vachss.
Two Trains Running is set in 1959, when every social faction in America geared up to take control of the 1960 presidential election. Who will win, and what will each group draw the line at how far it will go to win? Vachss sets readers the task of putting together the evidence. This book reads better than any Sherlock Holmes (or CSI) plot, because Vachss gives readers all the information to come to their own conclusion.
The story is strongly drawn, and the sense of place is astonishingly three-dimensional. Locke City is a crossroads of low-down activity, disguised as a rundown industrial river town. The characters all have secrets, but we tease those out only by keeping our eyes and ears open, since the omnicient third-person narrative so common to mystery and suspense writing is laid aside here. It's the right choice, as knowing what the characters are thinking would be like adding training wheels to the book. What's important is what the characters say and do, and that information is reported in a series of vignettes that are time-coded like police surveillance.
I can't praise this book enough. the Burke novels made me a Vachss fan, but this book is even more special, like a fine brandy distilled from sumptuous wine.
David Joe Wirth is a wonderful reader; his speech is incisive and clear, and he inhabits all the many characters of the book fully, giving each a separate life and energy. This is even more enjoyable because of the deep and intricate plot of the book, which nevertheless translates perfectly to the aural mode. If you or your friends like being read to, buy this audiobook, and submerge yourself in the pleasure you will have as soon as you hit the play button.