Whoa. Okay. I can’t BELIEVE what it says in the preface, that this novel was REJECTED 111 times…and then nominated for the Pulitzer. It’s raw, it’s vivid, and in places so painful that I had to read it in small jags at a time to break it up. That’s okay; it made this excellent novel last longer.
This is not a recent publication, but it’s one that has stood the test of time. It is also one of the first novels I read by this writer, and I became such a fan that I went back and read his entire Dave Robicheaux detective series in order. Sooner or later I will enter those books here, but for now, this stand-alone story is one of the best I have ever read, and it gives me an easy way to make sure this outstanding writer is on my blog somewhere.
Here it is clear that the protagonist (and likely the writer) has ABSOLUTELY NO use for the American prison system or cops in general, though he is careful to avoid stereotyping his characters, and even his bad guys have their better moments as well. Since I agree with his perspective, I found myself nodding in synch with the bald, raw statements made by the narrator as well as multiple characters within the story line.
But the guy is no bleeding heart; he also recognizes that people sometimes make some terrible choices to get inside those walls, and that those newly emerged often wreak a lot of damage to themselves and sometimes to others before they hit their stride, supposing that they do.
This is brilliantly written, and I don’t know what more to add to those who say that it is as much fun to read what he leaves unsaid as what he says outright. This early work shows a real gift, and it’s fun to go back and find out where he started.