Galveston. A beautiful kick in the ass. Really.

Not sure why I chose this book. But I'm really, really glad I did. I'm writing some semi-noir stuff, have been for awhile, and I say semi-noir because a steady diet of noir is like too many Edward Hopper paintings, or waking up with a hangover in Duluth on a hot Sunday, in a roachy room by the railroad yards.

So, Galveston. It wasn't the name. And it wasn't the white label proclaiming "From the creator, writer and executive producer of the HBO crime series, True Detective." Nic Pizzolatto, is the author. I hadn't seen his series, only read snatches about it, and thought, well, formulaic maybe, but then I saw "Edgar Award Finalist," and this blurb by Dennis Lehane:

"The best roman noir I've read in a decade. It's dark, brutal, sexy, sad, and filled with so much drop-dead gorgeous writing that I felt authentic envy while reading it."

Lehane, in my estimation, is a hellaciously good writer, and for him to say that, transcends blurbing. So I bought it.

It is, in one word, beautiful. The NY Times Book Review said, in part, "...fever dream of low-rent, unbearable beauty..." and how true that is. The other reviews were by people who obviously hadn't read the book and threw names like Chandler and Hammett around. Or said the book captured Galveston, which is so beside the point as to be odd.

Roy Cady, the protagonist, is a sort of enforcer, collector, odd-job guy. Big, intimidating, pretty tough, sliding into lushdom, forty and feeling older. He's deeper than he first appears, and this other Roy, while not prone to discussing philosophy or much of anything else, does become the conduit to the reader of breathtaking asides about the weather, the light, the feelings that things like dust and wind and refineries and motel ceiling stains cause in a sensitized, though often brutal observer.

Observer is the key word, and he is that, and it makes the pages so enjoyable. There's a nice balance between Roy as observer and some other voice, so one never gets the impression he is saying these brilliant things. That would be distracting, and this novel is so not distracting; I may read it again just for the writing. Mr. Lehane and the NYT nailed that, allright.

And the story is way beyond badasses doing awful stuff to one another and escalating consequences. At no time does the story become a matter of "get on with it," or bogged in its own intricacies or its own pathos. It's deftly told.

This fuel-injected, darkly powerful debut novel is so much better than most of what's out there. I trudged through a Pulitzer winner and just could not finish it. I won't say what year that one won, but it was like work to read. Galveston is one of those books that pisses me off to finish it, because I know that the next ten will be like that big prize winner; sailed across the room, pages flapping, to gather dust. 

What I'm saying is buy this. Enjoy it. It sets a high bar for your next read though.