Friday, October 08, 2010

Book: Galveston, by Nic Pizzolatto (2010)

On the same day that professional badass Roy Cady learns that he has cancer (X-rays show that his lungs “were full of snow flurries”), his gangster boss gives him a routine assignment with the unusual proviso not to bring a gun. Considering that said boss has recently taken up with Roy’s girlfriend, Roy begins to suspect that he’s in trouble. And he’s right. A bloodbath ensues, and Roy ends up lighting out for the title Texas town where he spent his only good days. But Roy’s got company: a young girl known as Rocky, facing times that match her name.

Of course, that’s back in 1987. In 2008 Roy is somehow still alive and still in Galveston, waiting for Hurricane Ike and his past to wreak havoc.

The first novel by Nic Pizzolatto walks the line between noir and literary fiction, at times unsteadily. The crime elements seem perfunctory, and the notion of Roy, Rocky, and her young sister forming a de facto family verges on preposterous. But once they’re on the road, Pizzolatto’s supple writing slays all doubts. He has a feel for both the Louisiana/Texas landscape, where “the palm trees were shorn of leaves and looked like gnawed ribs plunged into the dirt,” and for the people who live there, the men who “wreck their trucks driving drunk, find Jesus at forty and start going to church and using prostitutes.” The bifurcated structure gives the simple story a Biblical force, turning Galveston into a moving hardboiled parable.