Monday, March 28, 2016
That Galveston managed to take my mind off things- whether that's its purpose or not is another matter- is, at this moment, high praise. After all, sometimes, when fate is dogging your ass, the best you can do is take cover and hope for the best. Which, in one way or another, is a theme that Pizzolatto's novel dances around. Firmly in that noir tradition of doomed men and fallen and abused women that goes back to Jim Thompson's The Getaway and Elliott Chaze's Black Wings Has My Angel (see my review of Chaze's book here), Pizzolatto's novel, perhaps not as complex but equally engaging, focuses on bag-man Roy Cady. It opens with Cady discovering he has cancer, after which he's sent by his boss, who unfortunately has also stolen his woman, on a deadly errand to a New Orleans apartment where he's meant to apply some necessary muscle. Things turn sour, but Cady survives, escaping with Rocky, a young sexy prostitute, whom he finds cowering in the apartment. Roy, a "do your own time" type of guy, ends up driving from New Orleans to Galveston with Rocky and her three year old "sister," seeking sanctuary if not solace. Pizzolatto's narrative is set up in such a way that the reader knows something bad, that is other than cancer will eventually happen to Cady, though that will come as no surprise to any dedicated reader of noir fiction. Facing death, Cady becomes more introspective than your usual bag-man. However, he does his best to not let his thoughts get the better of him: "I remember a buddy of mine once telling me that every woman you loved was a mother and sister you didn't have, at once, and that what you were always really looking for was the female part of yourself, you female animal or something. This guy could get away with saying something like that because he was a junkie and read books." Despite his past, Cady does his best to resist temptation, specifically Rocky. With a metaphorical gun pointed at his head, Cady finds his world is partly dictated by fate and partly of his own making. Eventually he realises he has the capacity to create his own narrative: "When I read I got involved in the words and what they were saying so that I didn't measure the passing of time in typical ways. I was surprised to learn that there was this freedom made of nothing but words. Then I felt like I had missed some crucial point, a long time ago."
Roy stares into the abyss with such gusto that he took me back to when I first began to read noir fiction, and why I was attracted to it. Not only The Getaway and Black Wings... and Dan J. Marlowe's The Name of the Game is Death, but right on up to present day narratives by the likes of James Sallis and now Nic Pizzolatto. Moreover, I can't help but speculate on how and why one gravitates to certain books at certain times. Perhaps to divert is to heal. As Roy Cady says early on in Galveston, "I read a writer who said that stories save us, but, of course, that's bullshit. They don't. But stories do save something..."