June 4, 2014
I have a BA in English. I've read a lot of the recognized literary greats: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Jane Austen, Joyce, Updike, and Roth and Heller and Mailer. Even Franzen and Tartt and on and on. For the longest time, `literary' was my thing and I don't know if I was exactly a snob about it, but I guess I figured, if I was going to invest time in reading, than I should be reading something literary, something high quality.
Plus, I'd tried a lot of genre books and most of them just weren't very good. But, about 20 years ago I started commuting very long hours. I'm talking three to five hours a day sitting in a van or a bus or a train. This was awful, of course, but, it sure gave me a lot of time to read. I'd go to the local library on the weekends and load up on books for the week's commute and I'd end up reading three to five books a week. Needing so many books, I started branching out and trying genre again.
I got into Elmore Leonard, Ellroy, Starr, T. Jefferson Parker, the other Parker, Burke, Connelly, Thompson, Cain, Lehane, Willeford, Westlake (Stark), Block, Pellecanos--hey, it's a long list, but you know what I mean. I tried to get into other genres like horror and sci fi, but it just didn't work for me (except for some westerns), but, I just fell in love with crime and noir. I still read a literary book here and there but I was stuck on tales of criminals and doomed screw-ups.
Which brings me (finally) to Dirtbags and why I like it so much. It's a story about a man who wants to be a famous serial killer, another man who is just the worst kind of selfish woman-hating jerk, a woman (married to the killer) who goes from stripper to restaurant manager (working for and having an affair with the jerk), another man (who lives in a creepy trailer - yes!) who joins the serial-killing hopeful in his murderous endeavors, a doomed, drug addict mother (divorced from the restaurant-owning jerk) who is quite fascinating during her all-to-brief appearance, and a scorned wife (of the jerk, of course) who will stop at nothing to get her revenge.
Now, this is what I like. I don't want to read the same old junk about the same old people. I don't want to read intimate dramas about suburban families dealing with some awful secret. I don't want to read about some dude's midlife crisis or about that same dude at 21 coming of age in an uncertain world. I want to read about killers and jerks and strippers and drug addicts and things going bad in an extreme way.
If you are reading this review, then I bet you feel the same way, I bet we have similar tastes. Of course we want our fiction to be well-written and cleverly-plotted with decent character development, but we want to see grit and mayhem and something grotesque and something just plain chilling (with some humor thrown in here and there), that still, somehow, reminds us of real life.
Right? Okay, then, Dirtbags is your book. Buy it, read it, enjoy it.