Tuesday, November 11, 2008


'...I hated Minnesotans and hated the goddamn wind. The howling started on one end of the house and caught every crack and hole on its way across, a real zombie chorus that made it hard to sleep. Not that I was sleeping. Most nights I drank wine and stared out the windows into my frozen front yard, the twisty dirt driveway cutting through to the tree-lined county highway, until I passed out, trying to pinpoint the moment my life turned to shit.'

About three years ago (give or take), I started digging pulp. Crime novels. Mysteries. Action heroes. If it was hard-boiled, and not an egg, I was interested. My path to Yellow Medicine -- a book that reads like you're going twenty rounds with a prize fighter -- began with the comic book Criminal. An author by the name of Duane Swierczynski (welcome to kindergarten, please spell your last name for the class), a bona fide crime writer himself, wrote a back-up story in the comic. I immediately went to the library and devoured his books. Relished them. I began following his site, where one day he made mention of Yellow Medicine on his blog. Quoted it. Said it took place in Minnesota. Sold.

So there's a round about, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon explanation for my reading Medicine. Written by Anthony Neil Smith, the man behind the online crimezine Plots With Guns, Medicine is a brutal, sharp book. A book with extremely flawed characters that are believable, and a main character whose soul is as bitter and cold as the Minnesota landscape that surrounds him.

Deputy Billy Lafitte is a Gulfport, Mississippi transplant, a cop who bends the law when it suits his needs. What starts out as a simple favor to Drew, a local psychobilly rocker chick who Billy truly loves, becomes so much more, with decapitated bodies, a haunting figure from Billy's past, and what may or may not be Islamic terrorists. In Minnesota. In rural Minnesota.

Nothing quite turns out the way you expect it to, and no punches are pulled. Billy is not the hero of an action film or book, and he knows it; he is real, and thus the explosions, the gunfire, and the loss of human life feel real.

And it all ends in a perfectly ambiguous moment. So pick it up. You won't be sorry. Oh, and for a little about Smith and his own transition to the frozen tundra of Minnesota, check out this interview with Pulp Pusher.

Until next time,

No comments: