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Under the Bright Lights

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When a city councilman is gunned down, Rene Shade refuses to write off his death as a burglary-homicide as he is ordered to do. Now, Shade's quest for the truth leads him on a chilling chase through a treacherous swamp of leeches and cottonmouths--while dodging his own unresolved past. When a city councilman is gunned down, Rene Shade refuses to write off his death as a burglary-homicide as he is ordered to do. Now, Shade's quest for the truth leads him on a chilling chase through a treacherous swamp of leeches and cottonmouths--while dodging his own unresolved past.


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When a city councilman is gunned down, Rene Shade refuses to write off his death as a burglary-homicide as he is ordered to do. Now, Shade's quest for the truth leads him on a chilling chase through a treacherous swamp of leeches and cottonmouths--while dodging his own unresolved past. When a city councilman is gunned down, Rene Shade refuses to write off his death as a burglary-homicide as he is ordered to do. Now, Shade's quest for the truth leads him on a chilling chase through a treacherous swamp of leeches and cottonmouths--while dodging his own unresolved past.

30 review for Under the Bright Lights

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Well, I already knew that Season Two of True Detective is a poorly written, criminally boring, badly acted puzzle that no one in their right mind wants to bother solving, full of stupid lines that no one in their right mind wants to bother making sense of, generously assuming there even is any sense to be made of them. Now I also know, hey, it is kinda derivative, too! I mean, that was obvious, but to be more specific: it is a half-assed homage to what appears to be one of the most amateur of bo Well, I already knew that Season Two of True Detective is a poorly written, criminally boring, badly acted puzzle that no one in their right mind wants to bother solving, full of stupid lines that no one in their right mind wants to bother making sense of, generously assuming there even is any sense to be made of them. Now I also know, hey, it is kinda derivative, too! I mean, that was obvious, but to be more specific: it is a half-assed homage to what appears to be one of the most amateur of books by Daniel Woodrell, a writer juuuust unknown enough that a google search for "daniel woodrell true detective" did not pop up any noteworthy comparisons, by which I mean any comparisons. Due to the sheer coincidence of me reading this around the same time I've been hate-watching Season Two, I had my suspicions that Woodrell has been a big influence on Pizzolatto for probably a long time. Little things, like one of the not-quite-baddest-badguys in this novel being named "Pete LEDOUX" and the backwoods Loooseana setting and the hardened, drearily witty cop taking on the two-headed beast of corruption that is city government and the criminal underworld, of the latter making the actions of the former look like something they are not before brushing them under the rug, etc. Hell, there's even a stray character with the surname "Fontenot," which you may recall was also the last name of poor little Marie from ickyvideo: Maybe you're thinking that's all pretty circumstantial, but in that scene a couple of weeks ago where Vince Vaughn looks around and delivers the line "Here we are, under the bright lights" (you know, the title of this fucking book), I actually whooped aloud all "BOOM, MUTHAFUCKA! I KNEW IT!!" Of course, I was really just talking to myself since this season sucks so bad that no one will watch it with me. The plots are notably similar (high-profile murder of dirty city employee, let's cover it up, cop wants the real truth, etc). It's like he went from subtle nods to Woodrell in badass Season One, to borderline-theft in Season Two. Now that I've let out some of my pent-up rage, I should address more than the fact that this book has been half-heartedly plagiarized to make the most disappointing mash-up shitshow Season Two ever, and I'm saying this as a defender of the tail-end of Twin Peaks, if that tells you anything about how far my generosity extends for previously groundbreaking television on the slump. Oh, and speaking of Twin Peaks, how about True Detective Season Two's watered down Julee Cruise Roadhouse scenes where two of the main characters sit in a smoky dive drinking whiskey and staring into each other's eyes as the room fills with the gloomy music of a strange-looking woman who seems totally, almost Lynchianly out of place, or that part where the detective got shot by a faceless stranger at the end of the episode and left us on a cliffhanger until the next episode which opens with a revelatory dream sequence? Oh my god, talk about Daniel Woodrell, talk about Daniel Woodrell, this is a review of Rene Shade #1, not the second season of True Detective. Let me try again. This book is really fun, and I fully intend to read all three now that I've randomly found a copy of the whole series for pretty cheap. It made me understand a little better why people totally eat up crime fiction, especially from folks who are allegedly especially good writers like, umm, Raymond Chandler, right? Right. There are precisely three reasons this book is getting such a flippant rating from me: 1) It consistently has that too clever Ocean's Eleven style dialogue, where even the most minor character is your sharpest-witted friend, exchanges that would be perhaps believable on the internet where time and consideration CAN be used in order to compose measured responses and/or witty banter, but is hard to buy as real-time exchanges between cops and crooks and scapegoat rednecks, especially not every time they open their mouths. I gather that this is a trend in gumshoe fiction, though, but I haven't read enough to say. Even my gold standard that is True Detective Season One was guilty of this at times (see: every exchange between Marty and Rust regarding religion, for example), but coasted for me since the subjects tended to be ones that the two men had pretty clearly given a lot of thought to (see: every exchange between Marty and Rust regarding religion, for example). I'll grant that dynamic back-and-forths make for fast and entertaining reading, though. I mean, at least it's not full of absurd, nonsensical metaphor and weak, nonsensical insults, and boring, nonsensical characters with shoddy, nonsensical motives where people go around fucking their enemies with their enemies' mothers' headless corpses, since that's somehow scientifically possible without the attachment of a dildo to said headless corpse, and remind me why the corpse has to be headless? Fuck, where was I? Right, two. 2) Some pretty intensely overwritten parts, where the metaphors just ran and ran and ran all day, hammering home the comparisons they were drawing which were already wince-inducing even before they were home-runned for team purple. To be fair, there is also an awful lot of wonderful imagery contained within the florid parts because, duh, it's Daniel Woodrell, a man who could describe your face off all day long and make it look easy. In his later books, he has tamed this and learned to use it in a more spare and effective way, but early on (such as this book), it could get pretty vulgar at times, the whole descriptions thing. At least they always make sense, though, unlike when a person says your walk sounds like erasers clapping or whatever. 3) It made me think about True Detective Season Two too much. I just couldn't have a pure reading experience with the book for that simple fact. Unfair? Yes. Sorry, Daniel Woodrell. Sorry if I've made you feel a little "apoplectic."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    Jewell Cobb is a small town Louisiana boy who has come to the city with dreams of making it big in crime, and he gets hired to kill a crooked politician. Detective Rene Shade grew up on the streets he now works, and he knows every lowlife around. His own brother runs a bar so shady that Rene can ruin business just by walking in the place and scaring off the customers. As Shade tries to run down Cobb and figure out what’s behind the gang violence things get messier than trying to eat a bowl of gu Jewell Cobb is a small town Louisiana boy who has come to the city with dreams of making it big in crime, and he gets hired to kill a crooked politician. Detective Rene Shade grew up on the streets he now works, and he knows every lowlife around. His own brother runs a bar so shady that Rene can ruin business just by walking in the place and scaring off the customers. As Shade tries to run down Cobb and figure out what’s behind the gang violence things get messier than trying to eat a bowl of gumbo without a spoon. This is Daniel Woodrell’s first book, and it’s the start of a trilogy he’d do featuring Rene Shade. It’s a short and snappy piece of work that focuses on vivid characters and colorful atmosphere that includes smoky pool rooms and swamps. It’s not nearly as good as Winter’s Bone, but it shows off Woodrell’s talent that he’d continue to develop over his career.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James Thane

    Under the Bright Lights is the first volume in Daneil Woodrell's Bayou Trilogy. Rene Shade is a former boxer-turned-police detective with a complicated family situation. Shade lives above the pool hall owned by his mother; one slightly disreputable brother owns a bar frequented by local outlaws; Shade's younger brother works for the city attorney and has loftier ambitions, and the boys' father, a pool hustler, is long gone and hasn't been seen in years. When a local black politician is shot to de Under the Bright Lights is the first volume in Daneil Woodrell's Bayou Trilogy. Rene Shade is a former boxer-turned-police detective with a complicated family situation. Shade lives above the pool hall owned by his mother; one slightly disreputable brother owns a bar frequented by local outlaws; Shade's younger brother works for the city attorney and has loftier ambitions, and the boys' father, a pool hustler, is long gone and hasn't been seen in years. When a local black politician is shot to death, Shade is called to investigate. It's immediately clear to Shade that this is a case of deliberate homicide and that the killing may have been politically motivated. But the mayor is anxious to avoid any possible political scandal and insists that the detectives investigate the crime as a burglary gone bad. Shade will follow orders up to a point, but inevitably he will pursue the case in the direction that the evidence takes him. Soon he's heading deep in the Bayou's sordid underbelly, and a number of other murders follow. Woodrell's real strength is not necessarily in his plotting but rather in his writing, which is lyrical, in the settings he describes, and in the characters he creates. Aside from Shade, the most memorable character in this book is Jewell Cobb, a young country boy who comes to the city with dreams of becoming a famous outlaw. Jewell is an inspired creation who lights up the page every time he makes an appearance. Daniel Woodrell has been flying under the radar for much too long and deserves a much wider audience for his beautifully-written books. The success of one of his later books, Winter's Bone and the great movie that was recently made from it, may finally provide the spark that will enable him to gain a larger reputation.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    The first in the Bayou Trilogy, these early crime novels of Woodrell's are a little surprising given his famed grasp on the Southern Gothic realm of genres. Typically, crime novels are page turners, and while the plot was decent, this was not a page turner for me mainly due to its floral writing and slower pace. Nonetheless, a very enjoyable read. I'll finish the trilogy, but I very much prefer Woodrell's style in Southern Gothic lit than crime fiction. The writing is outstanding, because Woodrel The first in the Bayou Trilogy, these early crime novels of Woodrell's are a little surprising given his famed grasp on the Southern Gothic realm of genres. Typically, crime novels are page turners, and while the plot was decent, this was not a page turner for me mainly due to its floral writing and slower pace. Nonetheless, a very enjoyable read. I'll finish the trilogy, but I very much prefer Woodrell's style in Southern Gothic lit than crime fiction. The writing is outstanding, because Woodrell is quite simply one of the greatest American writers I've been exposed to when it comes to prose. The characters are deep considering how little exposure the reader has to any one of them. Rene Shade is an ex-washed-up-boxer turned detective, who's a cop in the Bayou town in which he grew up and raised mischief. Shade's character development was on the shallow side for a main protagonist, especially in the crime fiction genre. Though I imagine this changes in books two and three, and being the novel is so short I hope one could treat the trilogy as one piece in that regard.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James

    I first came across Daniel Woodrell in the excellent Winter's Bone, a bleak description of the Ozarks. This earlier book is as firmly rooted in a place, this time the Bayou. What I enjoyed most about the book was how this sense of place gave me a trip into an American sub culture so exotically different from the norms one is accustomed to. While I cannot make any assessment of the veracity, it certainly felt real and with the sot kingly good characters, some gritty sub plots and some great jokes I first came across Daniel Woodrell in the excellent Winter's Bone, a bleak description of the Ozarks. This earlier book is as firmly rooted in a place, this time the Bayou. What I enjoyed most about the book was how this sense of place gave me a trip into an American sub culture so exotically different from the norms one is accustomed to. While I cannot make any assessment of the veracity, it certainly felt real and with the sot kingly good characters, some gritty sub plots and some great jokes. A failed boxer and now a policeman who dammit plays by his own rules (sometimes cliches feel like the friendly wag of a plump Labrador, comforting no matter how often they are repeated) needs to find out who killed an up and coming local politcan. Very enjoyable stuff indeed!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bookkaholic Magazine

    (See our full review over at Bookkaholic.) A Deep South crime noir with prose drunk on poetry. Woodrell writes with flourish and layers his sentences with a thick Southern feel, heavy with local dialect. When you’re in Woodrell’s world, you know you’ve been transplanted swimmingly close to the swamps of Louisiana. (See our full review over at Bookkaholic.) A Deep South crime noir with prose drunk on poetry. Woodrell writes with flourish and layers his sentences with a thick Southern feel, heavy with local dialect. When you’re in Woodrell’s world, you know you’ve been transplanted swimmingly close to the swamps of Louisiana.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    This is only my second Woodrell (after Sweet Mister ) and I’ve opted to savour it by reading the three parts or books slightly separated from each other. This is much more of a crime novel, but I hesitate to say that, as it’s not quite like anything else I have read; Woodrell’s prose is the star. There is quite a lot of dialogue, which is exquisitely written, but also his descriptions, which conjure up such vivid images, are absolutely compelling. To inject such poetry into the mayhem, to blend This is only my second Woodrell (after Sweet Mister ) and I’ve opted to savour it by reading the three parts or books slightly separated from each other. This is much more of a crime novel, but I hesitate to say that, as it’s not quite like anything else I have read; Woodrell’s prose is the star. There is quite a lot of dialogue, which is exquisitely written, but also his descriptions, which conjure up such vivid images, are absolutely compelling. To inject such poetry into the mayhem, to blend humour with brutal violence, and to reflect the Cajun background of the Louisiana swamp is magical indeed.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Strickland

    3.4 stars rounded down. There’s a lot that’s good in here, and some that misses the mark.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: When a city councilman is gunned down, Rene Shade refuses to write off his death as a burglary-homicide as he is ordered to do. Now, Shade's quest for the truth leads him on a chilling chase through a treacherous swamp of leeches and cottonmouths--while dodging his own unresolved past. Opening: Jewel Cobb had long been a legendary killer in his midnight reveries and now he'd come to the big town to prove that his upright version knew the same techniques and was just as cold. He sat o Description: When a city councilman is gunned down, Rene Shade refuses to write off his death as a burglary-homicide as he is ordered to do. Now, Shade's quest for the truth leads him on a chilling chase through a treacherous swamp of leeches and cottonmouths--while dodging his own unresolved past. Opening: Jewel Cobb had long been a legendary killer in his midnight reveries and now he'd come to the big town to prove that his upright version knew the same techniques and was just as cold. He sat on the lumpy green couch tapping his feet in time with a guitar he scratched at with sullen incompetence. Looking at Woodrell's text is like looking at those visual picture puzzles. You have to look through the oddly cobbled together phrases to catch the story, and it is a kind of wonderment when it works on a personal level. The real knack is deciphering the conversations, staccatoed brevity is my take on most of the grunting intercourse, yet it all works. This is a sad, sick tale of assassination, pornography, politics, and kids who just don't know any better. Coal bins lined the tracks, providing a haven for those rambling men who couldn't spare the buck for a flop and refused to perjure themselves on the God issue for the payoff bowl of soup and green-blanketed bunk. Urban Darwinism was at work in the grim light of this place, and the mean got over with their no-limit rage, while the weak went under, silently." Got to love that Urban Darwinism.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    Real people with bones, sinew and brains. Not exceptional brains, just some local ability to think. Humans. Woodrell writes to us, we're in the bar, smelling the dank smoke, sweating in the heat, tasting the tension and the drinks. Maybe this gift is the difference. Writers that don't invite us in behind the curtain, that use words and method to obscure the story, like a Hollywood fog machine, don't have the gift to change reality. One scene in particular reflects this. A character is about to b Real people with bones, sinew and brains. Not exceptional brains, just some local ability to think. Humans. Woodrell writes to us, we're in the bar, smelling the dank smoke, sweating in the heat, tasting the tension and the drinks. Maybe this gift is the difference. Writers that don't invite us in behind the curtain, that use words and method to obscure the story, like a Hollywood fog machine, don't have the gift to change reality. One scene in particular reflects this. A character is about to be killed, knows it, and rather than write the scene to horrify us with the means, we get to shut our eyes with the victim and accept that end. Over. Nasty, brutal, but the reader is released, too. All the characters in this piece are drawn straight out with a thick drawing pen, no smudging, no gaussian blur, no fog machine. I'll read everything Woodrell has out there, and be glad he shares his gift.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I liked this one a lot. It's not as complex as Winter's Bone. I read a negative review which criticized the plot, paragraphing and punctuation. The critic said nothing about the language and characterization. I think it's got a developed enough main plot and several side plots. I've never quite understood people's obsession with how dialogue is paragraphed and punctuated. I've seen Comic McCarthy and Charlie Huston lambasted for errors of orthodoxy. These language Nazi's need to find a new bann I liked this one a lot. It's not as complex as Winter's Bone. I read a negative review which criticized the plot, paragraphing and punctuation. The critic said nothing about the language and characterization. I think it's got a developed enough main plot and several side plots. I've never quite understood people's obsession with how dialogue is paragraphed and punctuated. I've seen Comic McCarthy and Charlie Huston lambasted for errors of orthodoxy. These language Nazi's need to find a new banner to goose step behind. Get use to it. English is not Latin. Doesn't follow regulations well. Likes to wander off in the forest barefoot and smoke pot. English likes to throw bricks through plate glass rules The language of Bright Lights is as wonderfully lyric as Winter's Bone Maybe too much so for a Noir wannabe, but maybe it wannabe something else. Maybe the language just wants to come bursting out the way it does and ain't scared of no language Nazis.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    This isn't my favorite of the literary projects (Winter's Bone) by Mr. Woodrell that I've read in my noir selections by the different leading authors. The plot loosely follows a bayou homicide dick named Rene Shade investigating a double murder in St. Bruno, a remote, hickish town in rural Louisiana. The rough antics and hardboiled dialogue remind me a little of Chester Himes' Harlem cop partners, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. The prose style is slangy, so you may find yourself rerea This isn't my favorite of the literary projects (Winter's Bone) by Mr. Woodrell that I've read in my noir selections by the different leading authors. The plot loosely follows a bayou homicide dick named Rene Shade investigating a double murder in St. Bruno, a remote, hickish town in rural Louisiana. The rough antics and hardboiled dialogue remind me a little of Chester Himes' Harlem cop partners, Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. The prose style is slangy, so you may find yourself rereading certain phrases and words. But I smiled over some very funny lines, and the energy I saw at work here kept it a fun enough read. More titles by this author are on my TBR list.

  13. 4 out of 5

    B. R. Reed

    I believe this was Daniel Woodrell’s first published book. He is one of my favorite living American writers and I compare him with writers like Wm Gay, Larry Brown, Tim Gautreaux, Chris Offutt, Ron Rash, Tom Franklin and Donald Pollack. Some refer to them as “grit lit” writers. Woodrell’s stories are mostly about rough white men. They fight, drink and raise hell. When I started this book it seemed to be set in Louisiana vs Woodrell’s home turf of Missouri. However, I did some historical research I believe this was Daniel Woodrell’s first published book. He is one of my favorite living American writers and I compare him with writers like Wm Gay, Larry Brown, Tim Gautreaux, Chris Offutt, Ron Rash, Tom Franklin and Donald Pollack. Some refer to them as “grit lit” writers. Woodrell’s stories are mostly about rough white men. They fight, drink and raise hell. When I started this book it seemed to be set in Louisiana vs Woodrell’s home turf of Missouri. However, I did some historical research and learned Frenchmen from Canada settled in the area of St Charles, MO more than two centuries ago. The references to the Jeff City pen, Stag & Falstaff beer, Marais du Croche, Los Petites Cotes are connected to Missouri. Specifically, I believe that the fictional “Saint Bruno” is modeled roughly on St Charles Co., Missouri. Anyway, I think I’m right. Woodrell is a “less is more” sort of writer. He moves his stories along with fewer words than many writers but remains a great stylist. Though many of his characters are “hard boiled” they also come across as real. Woodrell writes well about sexual encounters and incorporates humor. His stories are fun to read. I also like the fact that he is big on family matters and family ancestry. He writes about how the living are greatly affected by place and past generations. This is book #1 of the René Shade detective stories. Shade is a mix of Irish and French-Canadien. He was a lawman “not guided by the total love of the law, but he was more for it than against it.” The new kid in town is a knucklehead by the name of Jewel Cobb. Jewel “had the ways of a punk and a loser’s heart.” Amen to that. Anyway, there are a couple of murders in “Frogtown” that Shade and his partner investigate. Good story with plenty going on. I gave this book a 3+ star rating because I liked four or five of his later novels better than this one. Woodrell is a first rate writer, I’d recommend not missing out on his work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Frank Thirdeyed

    Rating: 2.5 stars Interesting setting for sure. A swampy noir that's a funny and quick read. More Spillane than Chandler, though it reminded me of Hap and Leonard too. A real sense of place through the streets, bars, poolrooms and eventually the swamps itself. I liked that we got all sides of the coin: the story of the detective, the criminals and the loser criminals who are hunted by the bigger men. Sadly, it is very much overwritten, with a lot of pointless adjectives and sentences not going an Rating: 2.5 stars Interesting setting for sure. A swampy noir that's a funny and quick read. More Spillane than Chandler, though it reminded me of Hap and Leonard too. A real sense of place through the streets, bars, poolrooms and eventually the swamps itself. I liked that we got all sides of the coin: the story of the detective, the criminals and the loser criminals who are hunted by the bigger men. Sadly, it is very much overwritten, with a lot of pointless adjectives and sentences not going anywhere soon. Wouldn't hurt to be more on point. Also, the book is too cool for it's own good. Well, the characters are anyway. I'm used to noir and tough guy talk - I like it. But with most pulpy crime books it's mostly only the detective or the main bad guy that does it. Here, everybody is witty and funny and I soon got tired of it. Makes it one-dimensional, which could've been avoided easily. There's a glimpse of Woodrell's later character-driven Southern dramas, mainly in the character of Jewell, which to me was the most normal and humane. As is, this was a very flawed but mildy entertaining story. Since I'm reading the trilogy book I will go straight ahead to the next 2.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David

    Woodrell sometimes seemed confused whether he wanted to emulate James Lee Burke or Raymond Chandler, alternating from florid prose to hard-bitten, snappy dialog. But that isn't entirely bad. In this debut with detective Rene Shade, he's done a lot right. His plotting is solid, his characters act human, and despite the overwriting at times, his story is a satisfying blend of crime, hot summer nights, bar room intrigue and race in the deep south. Woodrell sometimes seemed confused whether he wanted to emulate James Lee Burke or Raymond Chandler, alternating from florid prose to hard-bitten, snappy dialog. But that isn't entirely bad. In this debut with detective Rene Shade, he's done a lot right. His plotting is solid, his characters act human, and despite the overwriting at times, his story is a satisfying blend of crime, hot summer nights, bar room intrigue and race in the deep south.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Djrmel

    The dialog is all dialect and idioms, the setting is heavy on ambiance and far too light on necessity. There's a decent story hidden under all the long winded insults and far too clever retorts, but cutting through the heavy handed noir-style makes for hard reading or fast skimming. The best part of this book is that Woodrell got it out of his system early in his career and could go on to much, much better books. The dialog is all dialect and idioms, the setting is heavy on ambiance and far too light on necessity. There's a decent story hidden under all the long winded insults and far too clever retorts, but cutting through the heavy handed noir-style makes for hard reading or fast skimming. The best part of this book is that Woodrell got it out of his system early in his career and could go on to much, much better books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rick Hautala

    As a first novel--It's great! ... As "just another novel" by a writer--It's still purty durn good! ... I was (and remain) kinda confused by the complications and the ultimate mystery--Who really did shoot ... well, THAT guy? (I don't want to give anything away.) But the descriptions, and characters, and dialog are all terrific ... not James Lee Burke terrific, but damned good! ... I would recommend this book--It's fast pace(almost too fast, at times)makes for a quick and enjoyable read. As a first novel--It's great! ... As "just another novel" by a writer--It's still purty durn good! ... I was (and remain) kinda confused by the complications and the ultimate mystery--Who really did shoot ... well, THAT guy? (I don't want to give anything away.) But the descriptions, and characters, and dialog are all terrific ... not James Lee Burke terrific, but damned good! ... I would recommend this book--It's fast pace(almost too fast, at times)makes for a quick and enjoyable read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rupert

    Daniel Woodrell's first book, but I didn't get around to reading it until I'd read four others. I might have liked it more if I'd read it first before his later, better novels. He's stlll finding his voice here and comes off a little too much like Elmore Leonard lite, who is the lite version already of the great earlier pulp and noir writers. Daniel Woodrell's first book, but I didn't get around to reading it until I'd read four others. I might have liked it more if I'd read it first before his later, better novels. He's stlll finding his voice here and comes off a little too much like Elmore Leonard lite, who is the lite version already of the great earlier pulp and noir writers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    As much as I like Woodrell's work, this one read a bit like a newly minted MFA trying to impress his readers, rather than just telling the story in a beautiful way (as he did in Winter's Bone). Still, it is a decent story about criminals and detectives in a fictional Southern town and I intend to read the follow-up volume. As much as I like Woodrell's work, this one read a bit like a newly minted MFA trying to impress his readers, rather than just telling the story in a beautiful way (as he did in Winter's Bone). Still, it is a decent story about criminals and detectives in a fictional Southern town and I intend to read the follow-up volume.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe Kraus

    Like a lot of people, I’m a big admirer of Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone. I teach it regularly in my noir fiction class, and I’m giving it a test run in my general introduction to literature class this semester. If you haven’t read it, I offer a top recommendation. It’s the best of what contemporary noir can be: understated in its language, it calls on a weakened character to rise to her best self on behalf of others. It’s an ethical interrogation of a community that works by reasonable and defined p Like a lot of people, I’m a big admirer of Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone. I teach it regularly in my noir fiction class, and I’m giving it a test run in my general introduction to literature class this semester. If you haven’t read it, I offer a top recommendation. It’s the best of what contemporary noir can be: understated in its language, it calls on a weakened character to rise to her best self on behalf of others. It’s an ethical interrogation of a community that works by reasonable and defined practices that, when they fall on Ree’s shoulders, become immoral. This one, Woodrell’s first novel, has glimmers of what he’d become. There’s the occasional turn of phrase that rises above the conventions of the genre, and there’s a persistent sense that a misunderstood community – here a Cajun community in Gulf city that seems like New Orleans or a smaller fictional relation – does criminal things for reasons we outsiders can’t fully understand. For the most part, though, this is a conventional noir, better than run-of-the-mill – notably better – but something that feels in retrospect like the apprentice work of someone who’d go on to become a master. When I compare this to the apprentice work of another noir master, James Ellroy, I find this a lot stronger than his Lloyd Hopkins work (which similarly gives evidence of the great work that would follow). In each case, though, I recommend starting with the best stuff and getting back to the early stuff only if you’re a completist. The best example of what’s limited here requires a SPOILER: The end of this involves a boat chase through the swamp that has shaped this community. It’s a great concept, and I can imagine a fine movie growing out of it, but Woodrell handles it less deftly than he would the subtler and more compelling climax of Winter’s Bone. Here, for instance, we never really see the swamp before the climax. We get it hinted at before, but the climax here has to carry the burden of description and conclusion. It’s far from a failure, but it’s also less of a culmination than it might have been. In similar fashion, there’s a potentially powerful relationship between our detective protagonist, Rene Shade, and his brother Tip. Even here, Woodrell writes dialogue with real skill, and many of the quiet scenes between them are effective. Woodrell doesn’t have the sustained focus here, though, that he does on Ree and her family in Winter’s Bone. Instead, we get the great insight of their relationship diminished by a series of other potentially powerful friendships, loyalties, and betrayals. As a work of literature, this is better than a lot of the noir I still enjoy. (I’m thinking, for instance, of James Lee Burke, who also writes about the greater New Orleans community.) As a coherent detective narrative, though, it doesn’t quite come together. Thankfully, it did come together – marrying the best of this to a tighter sense of plotting and more fully sustained attention to character relationships – for Woodrell. I enjoyed this enough to give the next one a shot (I’ve already got it as part of a re-released trilogy of Woodrell’s first novels) and I’m curious to know which work showed this talented writer going from good to great.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Neal Obermeyer

    I do not understand the praise for this writing. It’s comically flowery. It’s hard to find a noun anywhere in this book that isn’t paired with an unnecessary adjective. The tall man walked into the messy room through the squeaky door to the dusty desk. He hung his tattered coat on the wobbly coatrack and sat down on the uneven chair — that kind of junior-high-level cluttered writing. And then about halfway through the book, he pivots to writing in such dense metaphor that suddenly nothing is cal I do not understand the praise for this writing. It’s comically flowery. It’s hard to find a noun anywhere in this book that isn’t paired with an unnecessary adjective. The tall man walked into the messy room through the squeaky door to the dusty desk. He hung his tattered coat on the wobbly coatrack and sat down on the uneven chair — that kind of junior-high-level cluttered writing. And then about halfway through the book, he pivots to writing in such dense metaphor that suddenly nothing is called what it actually is anymore. There’s no sense of when to employ these tactics; instead everything just feels like a new rule to be applied everywhere. The dialogue is no better. Every character has essentially the same voice — they all just get aggressively showy in nearly every interaction. It’s one personality imposed on a dozen or so different names. This is not good. It’s someone trying to be Elmore Leonard in the most superficial way. The back cover and first few promo pages are littered with dozens of writers and critics wondering why this author hasn’t been more widely discovered and celebrated. I know why — because I read his book, and I will recommend it to no one!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Am not sure why I was not very impressed by this since, on the face of it, Woodrell develops a plausible procedural, with lots of atmosphere. But the idea of creating a fictional New Orleans-like city and region, St. Bruno, I found constantly confusing and in some ways phony. I probably will read volume 2, but I don't know when. Am not sure why I was not very impressed by this since, on the face of it, Woodrell develops a plausible procedural, with lots of atmosphere. But the idea of creating a fictional New Orleans-like city and region, St. Bruno, I found constantly confusing and in some ways phony. I probably will read volume 2, but I don't know when.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    I really dug Winter's Bone (probably one of my top 5 from last year) and I made it a point to seek out more from Daniel Woodrell. This is the first of a series of three novels that comprise The Bayou Trilogy and I really enjoyed it (despite it starting off pretty slow.) Once it got moving, it was everything I wanted and expected it to be. I really dug Winter's Bone (probably one of my top 5 from last year) and I made it a point to seek out more from Daniel Woodrell. This is the first of a series of three novels that comprise The Bayou Trilogy and I really enjoyed it (despite it starting off pretty slow.) Once it got moving, it was everything I wanted and expected it to be.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    Good but not exceptional tale of murder and mayhem in the swampy deep South. Kind of like James Lee Burke's Detective Robicheaux but with a more interesting family tree of bar owners, pool hustlers, and the like. A fun but not taxing read. Good but not exceptional tale of murder and mayhem in the swampy deep South. Kind of like James Lee Burke's Detective Robicheaux but with a more interesting family tree of bar owners, pool hustlers, and the like. A fun but not taxing read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    2.5*s - Pretty mediocre crime novel. Some interesting prose, some hamfisted, some trying-way-too-hard-to-be-harboiled. The story itself doesn't really progress or reveal much as it moves along. Breezy read though. Not the worst first novel ever written. 2.5*s - Pretty mediocre crime novel. Some interesting prose, some hamfisted, some trying-way-too-hard-to-be-harboiled. The story itself doesn't really progress or reveal much as it moves along. Breezy read though. Not the worst first novel ever written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom Mahan

    interesting setting, but too many moving parts and no resolution to the many story arcs set forth in this busy little novelette. A host of interesting characters are introduced and then just vanish here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kailin

    Sometimes, I like books about "cops and crooks" Sometimes, I like books about "cops and crooks"

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Magee

    fun crime southern noire

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adam Wilson

    This was so good. Like, if Barry Hannah wrote a detective novel.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    3.5 slow start but picks up. I live his prose and eloquence for a detective story.

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