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Galveston by Nick Pizzolatto

July 16, 2014


I came to this book, as many probably do, via Nick Pizzolatto’s work as the writer of the riveting TV series True Detective. After finishing the last episode of season one, I had a strong craving for anything else in that vein. Although Galveston is not quite as good as True Detective, it satisfied my urge.

This is the story of Roy Cady, a large, long-haired, bearded man who sometimes goes by the nickname “Big Country.” Roy is a hit man in New Orleans, and as the story opens he has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. As if that’s not a bad enough day, Roy gets another funny feeling inside—he suspects that his boss wants to have him killed. A quick series of events entangles him with a prostitute also working for his boss, and they (along with the prostitute’s daughter) both hit the road, fleeing for their lives (what’s left of Roy’s).

It is a slight variation on a very familiar plotline, but it’s an exciting ride. Similar to True Detective, the strength of this story springs from Pizzolatto’s gift for character development amidst darkness and violence, and his willingness to build unconventional structural twists into what could be a formulaic plot. Add a little Cajun spice, and you have something with the flavor of True Detective (even some of its details, such as the little aluminum dolls fashioned from empty, sliced open beer cans), but different enough to be entertaining. Pizzolatto has built his own dark corner in the southern noir universe. I will be getting his short story collection, Between Here and the Yellow Sea, next.

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