I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Blue Monday….

I managed to get some things done yesterday; some work on the short story I needed to work on, and I finished the essay I needed to turn in yesterday. So, that’s a good start to the week, methinks; we’ll see if the momentum keeps going through this week. The month of September is definitely beginning to wind down–we’ve only got a couple of weeks left, and of course, I have another project that’s going to take all of my time for the next two months so getting things done this month is crucial for me going forward. I am sleeping and groggy this morning, which isn’t good, but hopefully as the coffee continues to enter my system I’ll start waking up and getting it together here.

We started watching The Righteous Gemstones last night on HBO, and I have to say, it’s highly entertaining and more than a little bit insane. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it, but what turned up was even crazier than I was expecting. The Gemstones are a family of evangelicals with a megachurch, and of course, raging hypocrites with borderline criminal credentials and behavior. Over the course of the first few episodes, the eldest son is being blackmailed over a video of him partying with cocaine and hookers; this craziness begins the wild spiral of this truly original show. I kept thinking about John D. MacDonald’s One More Sunday, which tackled the same subject only in a deeply serious and noirish way; I’ve considered doing something similar myself–one of the many iterations of the Kansas book revolved around a megachurch that arose out of the sins of the past. (You have literally no idea how many iterations the Kansas book has been through, Constant Reader, no idea.)

One of the goals of this week is to get through all the emails in my inbox and clean it out once and for all; I’d like to be down to zero emails to answer by the end of this week, if at all possible. It may not be possible–answering emails inevitably leads to more emails to answer, as always–but that’s the goal of the week, and I will have to work my ass off this coming weekend as the deadline for this short story looms ahead of me.

I read some more of Rob Hart’s The Warehouse this weekend, and really am hoping to have the time to get further along into the story. It’s beginning to pick up steam, and the world it depicts is all too realistic, frankly; realistic and horrifying at the same time. It isn’t very hard to see this world as our future, and that is frankly a terrifying prospect. But it’s a credit to how good a writer Hart is that this book is so thought-provoking and real; this is my first time with one of Rob’s books and it certainly is encouraging me to make a run through his entire backlist.

And can anyone really expect anything more from a book that it’s so good that you want to tear through the author’s entire canon? I think not.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

383538_113957662092786_883378062_n

Livin’ on a Prayer

Good morning, and a happy Sunday to you all.

LSU pummeled Northwestern State 65-14 last night; they were sluggish in the first half on both offense and defense, allowing the score to be 24-14 at halftime and me wondering if this was some kind of terrible, awful, no-good let down after last weekend’s big game. Never fear–Joe Burrow came out on fire in the second half. LSU scored on it’s four possessions of the third quarter to go up 44-14, adding three more scores in the final period with back-up quarterback Myles Brennan (who also looked fantastic, which is good news for the next two years of LSU football as well), and had the game well in hand. Northwestern State maybe got three first downs total in the second half? But it was amazing to see LSU score 41 points in a half. I never thought I’d ever see the day when that happened, and yet…here we are.

I managed to get the Lost Apartment relatively cleaned up yesterday, and worked on some writing that’s due soon, but have a lot more writing to do today. I am having coffee with my friend Lisa this morning before she leaves town heading home for Atlanta, but after that I need to come home, strap my ass into my desk chair, and finish writing everything that needs to get done today. The essay is the most important thing for me to get done as it is due today; I struggled with it yesterday but I know what I want to say in it but have to figure out how to order the points I am trying to make with it. That is a lot harder than it sounds, and I really want this to be a good essay. I have remarkably little confidence in my ability to write anything, but the scars from college about essays run even deeper than the ones for short stories. But, as my friend Laura always reminds me, my blog is a short daily personal essay, and I have been writing these almost every day for the last fifteen years–which is a terrifying thought, really. I don’t write one of these every day–although I do try–but even if I only do 200 per year….that’s 3000 of these.

Three thousand.

So, yeah, I’m not precisely sure why I still get imposter syndrome about anything to do with writing, other than basic insecurity. The insecurity is something I am trying to work on; it’s an on-going process, obviously. I mean, if I still get imposter syndrome about writing fiction–after all the books and short stories and awards and nominations–obviously it runs very deep in me. I’m not sure why that is–most likely because of the never feeling like I fit in that developed as a gay child–but there you have it. It’s not comforting that other writers experience it as well, although it does help somewhat to know I’m not alone in this.

Okay, sorry to be so brief, but I’ve really got to get to work. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

386346_440434689341653_1980206424_n

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

And just like that, Gregalicious is fifty-eight. I’ve been saying I’m fifty-eight, of course, since the new year began–I’m contrarian that way–just like in 2020 I’ll start saying I’m fifty-nine. Sixty is approaching, looming over the horizon. Who would have ever thought I’d make it this far?

Certainly not me.

Yesterday was a complete bust for the most part. Sunday night my insomnia returned, and it was also my night off from taking anything prescription, so I spent the evening lying in bed with my eyes closed, sometimes drifting off but never too deeply. I was also hungry–my toothache returned over the weekend, making chewing incredibly difficult, and so as a result of being hungry, was so drained and tired yesterday I even took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. It helped, but not that much–so I made meatballs for dinner. Ironically, by the time the meatballs were ready to eat in the slow cooker, the toothache had somewhat gone away, so I was able to eat a bowl of meatballs over wild rice (it was delicious) and having some food in my stomach made all the difference. We watched two more episodes of Mindhunter (the guy playing Manson is amazing), which were terrific–I love how they are dealing with Dr. Carr’s lesbianism, and how she has to stay deep in the closet at work, as well as having to deal with the unwanted attentions of predatory men.

I did spend some time savoring Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake, which I am going to spend some more time with this morning. It’s so well-done, really, as all of her books are, and I like that I am taking the time to enjoy it, resisting the urge to rush through to the end. I love that her main character isn’t necessarily the most likable protagonist…it’s very layered and textured.

I also finished reading Otto Friedrich’s City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s yesterday afternoon; I love reading books about old Hollywood and the way things used to be. The 1940’s were the last full decade of the studio system, and it was also the decade when, obviously, World War II swept away the last vestiges of the old world and gave rise to a new one, from the ashes. Chlorine is most likely going to be set in the early 1950’s, but as much as I think I know about the history of Hollywood, what I don’t know is voluminous.

I also worked on an essay briefly yesterday; completing the first draft, which is more of an abstract. I’ll need to expand on it more before I turn it in, but I write essays differently than the way I write fiction–which probably makes little to no sense to anyone besides me. But I always want to make sure that the points I want to make have come across in the piece–so I have to do that sketchy outline/abstract thing first, and then I can look at it and see where to move things around and what order they should go in and once I do that, I can start expanding on those thoughts more.

It works for me, what can I say?

Today I am going to take it easy and relax. I have to return to the office tomorrow–but at least I only have three days to work this week, two of which are half-days–and so, for my birthday, I think I’m just going to spend most of the day reading, relaxing, and organizing. I might reread Bury Me in Shadows, which will hopefully get me back into writing it (only three chapters to go! SERIOUSLY), or I might just take today as a day off. There’s a little voice in the back of my head shrieking at me you didn’t do anything yesterday so you need to make up for it today but I suspect I shall have very little trouble ignoring that voice today. Maybe I’ll stream Strangers on a Train today; it’s on Netflix, I think, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve watched the movie. I also have to run get the mail today–some packages were delivered–and Paul is going to bring Chinese food home for dinner tonight (I do love me some shrimp lo-mein), but other than that? Maybe some organizing–I enjoy doing that–and even maybe some writing, I have a short story due in a couple of months, and I think I’m going to do it in epistolary form; so I’ve been reading letters from the time period to get a better grasp on how people wrote letters during that time period. It may be entirely too ambitious of a story for me, but I guess I won’t know that until I start writing it.

And on that note, I am going to go curl up in my easy chair with a purring kitty and Laura Lippman’s book. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

15-copy-683x1024

If You Want Me to Stay

Well, here it is Thursday afternoon, I’ve got a load of laundry to fold and another in the dryer, the dishwasher is running and on my way home I made groceries. The past two days have been remarkably pleasant in New Orleans; low eighties and little to no humidity–so low that if there is any it isn’t noticeable, and anyone who’s been to New Orleans in July/August knows just how remarkable that actually is. I’ve not gotten very much writing done thus far this week–and I am debating whether to call it a night and just go relax in my easy chair, or try to get some writing done. I am in the midst of an enormous project that landed in my lap this week (or was it late last week? I don’t remember) and focusing on that has kind of knocked me out of writing mode.

Granted, it doesn’t take much to do this to me, but there you have it.

As much as I love writing, it’s amazing how little desire I usually have to do it. I always have to make myself do it, which is beyond bizarre.

Okay, I just spent some time doing chores, and am now listening to the Pet Shop Boys on Spotify. I’ve cleaned the kitchen, done some more laundry, straightened the rugs, and swept the living room. It really is disgraceful how slovenly I live; it’s at the point now where I am too ashamed to hire a cleaner. But in my own defense, eighteen foot ceilings make things incredibly difficult for cleaning purposes, especially when you have a ladder phobia and the floors aren’t level. I’ve always thought that the perfect metaphor for New Orleans; so many of us live here in a world that isn’t quite level. The ground is always shifting and sinking; houses always begin to lean and tilt as their foundations settle. There are very few streets or sidewalks in this city that are perfectly level; therefore it’s not so hard to understand that those of us who live here and no longer notice that things aren’t perfectly level are a little off-balance when we go somewhere else. The beautiful crepe myrtles that line the other side of the fence shower our sidewalk with beautiful , tiny pink and white blossoms…that turn to sludge when they get wet. They also attach themselves to your shoes and you track them inside, along with other assorted tree and bush and floral debris. I could sweep the sidewalk every morning and it would need to be swept again in two hours.

There’s also more dust here than anywhere I’ve ever lived before, and I’ve lived in desert climates. One would think the damp and rain would cleanse the air and remove all the dust and dirt, but it doesn’t. I can take my car to be cleaned, and by the next day there’s a thin layer of dust/dirt on my car. I’m not even sure where it comes from, to be honest. Maybe the crumbling of the houses and sidewalks and streets cough it up. Back when I worked at home I did the windows of my office every week, because the light was so much better and everything looked so much crisper and nicer with the glass cleaned. Now,  I don’t have the time, and I think that also might contribute to the general sense of dinginess. I need to take down all the pictures and dust them, the baseboards are in really poor shape, and of course, I should take the rugs in to be thoroughly cleansed.

I do enjoy cleaning though, and I do tend to think a lot about my writing when I’m cleaning. I have to write an essay/introduction to a new edition of a novel by an author who died of AIDS before the book was even published, and it is quite a good book; I loved his other book as well, and so I’ve been trying to think of a way to write an appropriate appreciation of the work he left behind; while also talking about the potential work we lost when he died so young. I knew there was a way to do it tastefully and respectfully, but every time I reached for it, it danced away out of reach inside my mind. While I was sweeping the living room, I realized what the theme of the book actually was, and that it would also make a perfect theme for my piece.

So, yay, thank you for that, dirty apartment.

I’ve also got my desk all cleaned and organized and ready for the weekend; I still need to file or find some places for things that I’m working on–I am really working on too much; I have certainly outgrown this little cubby I used as an office, and yes, I know, it’s better for the world and more convenient for me to go all digital and paperless….but I’m old and I’ve lost too much data over the years to ever completely be comfortable with a digital office. I’m excited; I want to write my essay, I am going to dig back into the WIP, and I also get to read Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, which is such a great title; it reminds me of my favorite ever-theater poster for Romeo and Juliet; I think Tulane was doing it and the poster was just red and yellow flames on a stark black background, and across the top in red letters outline in yellow were the words A plague upon both your houses.

Isn’t that great? Someone should really write an essay exploring Romeo and Juliet as a teen noir; it’s probably the only take on the play that hasn’t been taken–and even as I type that, I’m thinking, don’t be so sure.

And now it’s almost time for The Real Housewives of New York, after which I’ll probably write for a little while.

Have a lovely evening, Constant Reader!

IMG_1851

Love Train

Yesterday I had the privilege of reading a personal essay that did what all good personal essays do: it connected with me on a deeply personal level. That’s what the best kind of writing does; it connects with you. One of the myriad of reasons I love Stephen King’s work is because I can connect with the humanity of his characters–even the bad ones, and that’s truly skill.

If you would like to read Laura Lippman’s powerful essay on body image and getting older–something I myself have been wrestling with lately, as I get older and my body morphs into something I’m not sure I entirely recognize anymore–right here; trust me, you will NOT regret clicking here.

I’ve been wrestling this week with a lot of things: exhaustion from the pressures and anxieties of recent weather situations down here; concern about my inability to get work done on any of my writing; concern about money (always); and many of my volunteering responsibilities. A lot of it had to do with being tired and having low blood sugar-I don’t stress eat, whenever I’m under any kind of pressure it has the opposite effect: I don’t eat at all and lose my appetite completely. I rarely ever get hungry in the first place, and often have to ensure that I schedule myself time to eat so that I will actually remember to eat. (I know, it’s weird) But the older I get the more important it is for me to remember to eat because of the blood sugar thing. When my blood sugar drops, I have no energy or patience, and the lack of energy and patience often leads to a muddled mind which isn’t capable of writing or editing. The inability to write or edit (or even read) anything then creates more stress and anxiety, which means further loss of appetite. WHen Paul was out of town I found myself forgetting to eat almost constantly; the same situation developed over the weekend. It peaked finally yesterday, and having to run an errand to pick up a prescription in Mid-city afforded me the opportunity to pick up Five Guys for lunch–and eating a substantial meal made such an incredible difference in my day–once I’d eaten, I had energy and my sense of humor came back. I had been avoiding doing some things–like dealing with my email inbox–for days; not even wanting to read any of them because I simply couldn’t face dealing with them. But after I finish this I am going to start working my way through my emails with a goal to having the inbox officially cleared out by the end of today.

I know I can do it.

I’ve always had a tendency to put off dealing with unpleasant things because I simply didn’t want to face up to them; taking the Scarlett O’Hara “I don’t want to think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow” approach, and then continuing to push them away every day until,  of course, it was too late and the situation had become much worse. In my mid-thirties I finally recognized the reality that it’s always easier to deal with a shitty situation earlier rather than later and getting it over with–waiting never made anything better, nor did it resolve the problem, no matter how much I hoped the problem might somehow resolve itself over time. I have a shit ton of messages, for example, on various websites and even on Facebook messenger, that I’ve not answered. And while responses to messages and emails always beget more messages and emails, you can’t just keep letting them sit. I used to make myself crazy responding to everything; I used to have a very strict “everything must be answered within twenty-four hours” policy, which also sometimes provoked anxiety and also sometimes created more work for myself. I’ve taught myself to walk away from the email and the messages; no one needs to be on call 24/7, and I am, like anyone else, entitled to downtime and relaxation. I generally stop answering my emails after seven every day; the evenings are my writing and watching television and spending time with Paul time, and that’s kind of sacrosanct. There are very few things that actually demand, after all, immediate attention. I also restrict myself from dealing with emails on the weekend; that is my down time for cleaning around the house, running errands, and writing. That has really worked well for me, and I am going to stick to that going forward, with the occasional exception.

I’ve also not been as organized as I would like, going back to the Great Data Disaster of 2018. I’ve felt kind of at sea since then; that horrible weekend stalled the great momentum I was building and I’ve never really regained it since then. I’ve felt lost, like I’m treading water but barely keeping my head above the surface. That needs to stop, and I guess recognizing that there’s a problem is the first step in taking corrective action on it. I haven’t really felt like myself pretty much this entire year, like I’m one step behind my life. Other times it feels like I’m simply observing my life as it passes me by, which isn’t a particularly good feeling.

So, in the spirit of Laura’s essay, I am going to stop beating myself up over things, and try to focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

And on that note, I have some emails to answer. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader.

IMG_1725

Still the One

I know it makes me a bad person, but I can’t help but giggle to myself as more and more of former congressman/homophobe closet case Aaron Schock’s nudes (stills and videos) surface. On the one hand, he is a very good looking guy with a great body who clearly takes care of himself–eating right and exercise–but on the other…he did (or tried to do) as much damage to LGBTQ+ Americans as he could while in pursuit of a political career.

Contrast that with Mayor Pete, and you can see why the schadenfreude is kind of delicious.

I mean, seriously. Vote against the LGBTQ+ community your entire career in Congress, lose your career because you essentially stole campaign funds to bring your boyfriend with you on official travel and to redecorate your office, never come out ever, and then move to WeHo and get on every hook-up app imaginable, along with nude stills and videos–and then not think gays who know who you are will circulate them and share them on the Internet to mock and publicly embarrass/humiliate you?

Dude, seriously? You might as well do a gay porn movie and collect a big check at this point–because someone would pay you a fortune to do one.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, writing wise. I managed over two thousand words, which was kind of bitchin’, especially since when I opened the document for Chapter Twelve I literally had no idea what Chapter Twelve was going to be about. I didn’t finish the chapter, but I know how to finish it, so I should be able to get that done today as well as move on to Chapter Thirteen, which is very cool. I am looking forward to working on it more over the weekend, as well.

We finished watching Fosse/Verdon last night, and seriously–just go ahead and give every award there is for television performances to Michelle Williams already. It is a testament to how good Williams is that Sam Rockwell’s stellar performance alongside her as Bob Fosse doesn’t stand out as much–and both are giving Oscar-worthy performances. I’m sorry the show has ended, but now we can devote ourselves to Killing Eve, and Animal Kingdom has returned for its fourth season; Archer is also back for its final season. So, just as Game of Thrones and Veep end (forever), some of our other shows have returned to fill the void left behind.

I’ve not managed to get very far into Black Diamond Fall, between the writing and the television viewing, but I am about two chapters in and really liking it. Joseph Olshan is a good writer, obviously, and I am hopeful this weekend I’ll be able to get more of it read.

I can’t believe it’s almost June. Mary Mother of God. Where has this year gone already? Next thing you know it’ll be football season and then it’s Thanksgiving and then Christmas and BOOM, it’s 2020. Twenty fucking twenty. Yeesh.

I had some thoughts also last night about an essay I want to write about friendship that’s been brewing in my mind for a long while; partly triggered by an on-line conversation with a friend I hadn’t talked to in several years. It was lovely catching up, of course–it always is–and I love that I have so many friends I can go a long time without communicating with and then pick right back up where we left off before like no time has passed. I always feel like I’m a terrible friend–I am, as regular readers know, terribly self-absorbed and self-involved, and I own that, thank you very much–and honestly, have never really understood the concept; I either overdo it and put too much energy into it, or I don’t put any energy into it at all; neither is a recipe for lasting relationships. But I do have friends I’ve known for decades, people that are still in my life, even if remotely. So I guess that’s something, I suppose.

I’m being creative again, which is quite lovely, honestly. It’s about time, but I am enjoying writing again, and I am doing it again, which is nice. I always worry it’s going to go away, that the well is going to go dry sometime–especially when I have to force myself to do it, which is most of the time. But it’s still there, it still comes when I need it to, and I am pretty darned pleased about it. The dream of being a writer is what got me through some lean and terrible times in my life…

And on that sobering note, ’tis back to the spice mines.

204271_174768652574473_100001240186267_426383_8340693_o

Love Touch

Sunday morning, as I sit here in my cool workspace swilling coffee, trying to wake up and figure out what to do with the rest of my day. I need to go to the grocery store and I should also probably make an attempt to go to the gym; but I can’t seem to find my iPad, which makes doing cardio pointless (I read or watch TV on my iPad while on the treadmill; perhaps not having my iPad is simply an excuse for not going; what if it’s gone, lost, stolen? I am trying not to think that way and am hoping that I simply left it at the office. If not, I am terribly screwed because I don’t know where it is and I currently don’t have the cash on hand to replace it. So, yes, let’s just continue pretending happily that it’s as the office, shall we?)

I could, of course, just go to the gym and do weights. That always feels good, at any rate. Perhaps once I finish swilling this coffee….

I slept late yesterday, and I slept even later today. I spent most of yesterday not only reading but doing chores around the house, on the pretense that today I would not only go to the grocery store and the gym, but I would also spend some time writing today. I need to finish a short story; I need to revise still another, and there’s that new one struggling to take root in my brain that I haven’t really decided what to do with just yet. There are two others swirling around up there in my head, as well as others I’ve not thought about or have forgotten about in the meantime. But now, now as I wake up I feel more confident about running the errands and going to the gym and actually doing some writing today.

I’ve been reading The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, and greatly enjoying it; is there anything quite like well-written non-fiction? It’s why I love Joan Didion and Barbara Tuchman; one of the things I love to do while reading is to learn, and non-fiction fills that need quite beautifully. I also like non-fiction that makes me think; which is why I am looking forward to reading Dead Girls by Alice Bolin. I still would love to do a collection of my own essays, book reviews, and so forth; but egad, what an odious chore pulling all of that together would be. I struggle with essays, but I also think that the writing of essays; the ability to pull thoughts from my head and extrapolate them out to their fullest meaning, is vitally important and a skill-set I wish I had honed more properly. A friend once pointed out to me, as I bemoaned my inability to write essays, that my blog itself is nothing more than years of personal essays. That took me aback, because it was, in many ways, correct; there is definitely some truth to that, but it’s hard for me to take the blog seriously in that fashion, because so much of it is simply written off the top of my head in the morning as I wake up and drink coffee and try to figure out what to do with the rest of my day.

One of the problems for me with personal essays is, ultimately, the issue of self-deprecation, which I’ve addressed in previous blog entries about my writing and my career and my books; who am I to write about this subject? Am I expert enough in this to write about it, or am I simply talking about things that smarter, better-educated people have written about long ago and having the hubristic belief that I am the only person to see this truth for the first time? 

And, in considering myself self-deprecatingly as not that special or particularly smart, I defeat myself and never write the essay.

And of course, there is the problem of all the lies my memory tells me.

But yesterday, I took the afternoon to finish read an ARC of Lou Berney’s new novel, November Road, and was blown away by it.

Scan.jpeg

Behold! The Big Easy in all its wicked splendor!

Frank Guidry paused at the corner of Toulouse to  bask in the neon furnace glow. He’d lived in New Orleans the better part of his thirty-seven years on earth, but the dirty glitter and sizzle of the French Quarter still hit his bloodstream like a drug. Yokels and locals, muggers and hustlers, fire-eaters and magicians. A go-go girl was draped over the wrought-iron rail of a second floor balcony, one book sprung free from her sequined negligee and swaying like a metronome to the beat of the jazz trio inside. Bass, drums, piano, tearing through “Night and Day.” But that was New Orleans for you. Even the worst band in the crummiest clip joint in the city could swing, man, swing.

A guy came whipping up the street, screaming bloody murder. Hot on his heels–a woman waving a butcher knife, screaming, too,

Guidry soft-shoed out of their way. The beat cop on the corner yawned. The juggler outside the 500 Club didn’t drop a ball. Just another Wednesday night on Bourbon Street.

Lou’s previous novel, The Long and Faraway Gone, won every crime-writing award under the sun that it was eligible for: Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, and I don’t know what all; it was the crime publishing equivalent of the EGOT. It was, obviously, an exceptional novel. I met Lou when we were on a panel together at the Raleigh Bouchercon, along with Lori Roy and Liz Milliron; moderated by the amazing Katrina Niidas Holm. It was funny, because the panel topic was, I think, writing about small towns which, in fact, none of us on the panel really did, but we had fun with the topic and I know I brought up Peyton Place at least once and pointed out that suburbs are small towns with the primary difference being suburbs are bedroom communities for cities while small towns aren’t attached in any way to a larger city. It was fun and spirited and I liked Lou, thought he was incredibly smart, as were Liz and Lori. Lori and Lou went on to win Edgars for that year; and I admire their work tremendously. I’ve not had the opportunity to read Liz’ work; but she did have a terrific story in the New Orleans Bouchercon anthology, Blood on the Bayou.

Anyway, I digress.

I’ve been looking forward to November Road since I finished reading The Long and Faraway Gone, but I still need to go back and read Lou’s first two novels, Whiplash River and Gutshot Straight. 

I also have to admit, I was a little hesitant about Lou’s new book; it’s built around the Kennedy assassination in 1963, which always gives me pause (I have yet to immerse myself in Stephen King’s 11/22/63). I’m not sure why I don’t care to read fiction around the Kennedy assassination, but there you have: an insight into my mind. But the Kennedy assassination, while a primary plot device, is just that: a device to set the story in motion. Frank Guidry is involved with a mob boss in New Orleans, and after the Kennedy assassination he is given instructions to fly to Dallas, retrieve a car, and drive it to Houston to dispose of it. While he is doing this, he realizes that he is getting rid of evidence that may be of vital importance to the investigation into the president’s murder–and as such, is a loose end who knows too much and figures out he’s got to disappear now because they’re going to want to kill him. And sure enough, they do send someone after him, Paul Barone, a remorseless killer and tracker. The cat-and-mouse game between them builds suspense throughout the book.

But it’s not just about Frank, and it is a credit to Berney’s talent, creativity and imagination in that he throws in another primary character, constructed carefully in all the facets and layers that make her live and breathe: Charlotte. Charlotte is a wife and mother in a small town in Oklahoma, married to a useless drunk fuck-up with whom she had two daughters, and her salary working for the local town photographer is the primary thing keeping a roof over their heads. Her own ambitions for being a photographer herself are constantly shat upon by her boss, her society and culture and environment: she is a woman, a wife and mother, and in 1963 that so thoroughly defines her that any other ambition she might have throws her identity as wife and mother into question. Trapped, with the walls closing in on her closer every day, Charlotte takes the president’s assassination as a sign for her to run away with the girls and start over. Charlotte is an extraordinary character;  her relationship with her daughters is the strong backbone of this story. You root for her, you want her to make her escape and make her dreams come true.

Frank and Charlotte cross paths in New Mexico, and Frank sees them as his salvation; his murderous pursuers might be thrown off as they are looking for a single man, not one traveling with his wife and kids; the book becomes even stronger and more suspenseful once they are all together. Frank and Charlotte become close, despite not being completely honest with each other; they are both keeping their cards close to their vests, but yet form a loving bond. WIll they escape, or will they not?

November Road reminded me a lot of Laura Lippman’s Sunburn; the same kind of relationship building between a man and a woman where a lot of information, important, information, is held back from each other, and that lack of trust while falling in love is an important theme in both books: women trying to make their best lives, even if it means making morally questionable decisions, while becoming involved with a man who isn’t completely honest with her. Berney’s writing style, and tone, and mood, also put me in mind of Megan Abbott’s brilliant Give Me Your Hand. If you’ve not read yet the Lippman and Abbott novels, I’d recommend getting them and holding on to them until Berney’s book is released in October and reading them all over the course of a long weekend.

Bravo.