Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bordersnakes - James Crumley

"Well," Milo says, "let's see. Connie's married to a banker with shady connections. Connie's dead, crooked brother-in-law is both a banker and connected to one of the border familias. Maybe Western art and banks are good places to hide drug money...Shit, I don't know.

Warner Books Paperbacks - September 1997
Bordersnakes, by James Crumley, goes so over the top in its violence and vice that it almost turns into a satire of the blood-n-thunder-n-guts romance genre that guys over 50 who dig this sort of stuff really go for. I mean I've read some violent books in my time, but dang! this is one of the most violent. Its heroes, Milo Milodragovitch and C.W. Sughrue do the sort of fightin', fuckin' and drinkin' that would kill an keyboard pussy like myself. And pretty much bury any other Average Joe to boot! As far as plots go, there isn't much of one except for a bunch of drinking, fighting and fucking episodes strung together across an American Southwest roadtrip undertaken in the name of vengeance. That's really all you need to know to get into it. The quote above kind of recaps a bit of it. Mostly the "shit, I don't know" part. Someone stole Milo's inheritance, and someone left Sughrue gut-shot and left to die outside a bordertown tavern. The two detectives stew in their separate misery awhile, then collectively decide to team up and go after the motherfuckers responsible!

Don't get me wrong though. Reading this novel was a joy. I had a week of Arizona roadtrips to do myself, so I threw this book into the backpack for company. It was the right choice to suit my mood. Heads explode, guts explode, coke is snorted, tequila is consumed (by the bucketload!), fists are thrown, chicks are screwed...I mean this is Guy Shit Testosterone stuff with a capital T. There are also some brutal scenes that push the edge of squeamishness. I found myself squirming a few times in discomfort at the bad shit that is done within these pages. It's a grindhouse ride, to be sure, and none of it would work if it wasn't for Crumley's poetic writing style. He carries the novel all the way with a confidence that would crush lesser writers. Little phrases like "smiles as tentative as neon in the sunshine" snap off of just about every page. There have been more than enough comparisons to writers like Raymond Chandler in blurbs for Crumley's novels, but take it from me, James Crumley is one of a kind. I've read about half of his novels now, and I've yet to be disappointed in the kick they provide. There is an initial adjustment that needs to be made in starting one of his books however. Nice opening lines meander into digressions that seem random and pointless, but stick with it. It's worth it. I wouldn't recommend starting his works with this one. Go back to one of his earlier novels that feature Milo or Sughrue alone. Either The Last Good Kiss or The Wrong Case are great for newcomers. If you like those books you'll have a blast with this one.

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