Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Great Psychobilly Blog Road Trip of 2008: Day Four, Part One

The sound of a massive engine cuts through the heavy, sodden morning air. I sit up in bed, listening. "They're here."
"Yeah," she says. Her voice sounds resigned.
I look back at her. "You knew this was going to..."
"Yeah. Well. Part of me was hoping it might all be a hoax. Or maybe some kind of game."
"These people don't play, darlin'." I pull on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt.
"I'll put on coffee," she says.
The screen door bangs behind me as I step out onto the porch. "Hey y'all," I say.
Smith swings down out of the door of the Hummer-sine, a toothpick hanging from one corner of his mouth.
"We've come for the blog," he says.
I nod to him. "I know. It's ready."

Last stop: Kent Gowran's Blood Sweat & Murder Blog

The humidity gets you first. Like furnace blasts, only more moist (poor Billy Crystal...). Pretty soon you hear the insects, the banjos, and not long after, the muttered Southern-drawl curse: "Goddamned Bush." And you know you're there: Hell as imagined by J.D. Rhoades. He's got a bottle of Wild Turkey larger than my head, and he's ready to use it.

You know how it is: you want some great Southern crime fiction that feels authentic (and being from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I got bit and burned by authenticity every summer til I moved up North, so...). Something that's not not some pretender hitting all the touristy things, but is a change of pace from the great James Lee Burke. In that case, you pick up some of J.D.'s novels (we call him "Dusty" around these here parts). I mean, just read the opening of his second Keller novel, Good Day in Hell, aloud:

"The first blow split Stan's lip and knocked him into a stack of recapped tires at the back of the repair bay. He caught a glimpse of the bright sunlight and the road outside before his stepfather's bulk eclipsed the light like an evil moon. The second, third, and fourth blows were softer but more humiliating, delivered as they were by the hand holding the rolled-up magazine."

It sings, man! Fucking sings like a George Jones tune. And most visitors to this blog have already heard Dusty read the first chapter of his upcoming Breaking Cover, I hope, and I bet it felt good, didn't it? He just gets better and better.

And so the Hummer-sine takes on another passenger, he of the voluminous whiskey bottle and a greasy paper sack full of fried catfish fillets to spread around. We'd all forgotten how hungry we were (no fucking wonder).

It's something, being a Southerner in "exile". Luckily, I'm in the rural Southwestern corner of Minnesota, so I can at least see that "country" is "country" all over this country. The revelation gave me a foothold (until the snow started, and good God Almighty, that's when the homesickness starts--at about the same time as the shivering). And in a fever pitch I launched into the novel that became Yellow Medicine (which you should buy on May 12 from some form of the Barnes & Noble corporate giant), featuring another exile, a bent cop running from the bad choices he made in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It took Billy Lafitte some time to adjust up here, too, but we both did eventually, even if his adjustment was much more spectacularly violent and heartbreaking. Me, I got married and bought a house instead. I still plan on writing about my home state of Mississippi soon, but I needed to write two Minnesota novels first to keep the blood boiling in the sub-zero evenings. I feel blessed to have had writers like Dusty, Larry Brown, Harry Crews, Flannery O'Connor, Vicki Hendricks, and Daniel Woodrell, to keep those Southern accents alive in my head before they blow away in one of our stiff winds. But truly, I think they're going to hang on even in the fiercest tornado.

Who's joining up next? Back up into Detroit for a rendezvous with the eloquent crime fiction slinger Patti Abbot.

Driving Time: Slower than lightning, faster than thunder
Tune for the leg: "Dark Hair'd Rider" by Heavy Trash

"You ready?" Smith says.
I nod. "Yeah."
He grins. "That's what you think."
I turn to her. "I have to go."
She raises her chin defiantly, tears glistening in her eyes, but she won't let them fall. "I know."
I give her a long, soft kiss, and then, without a look back, I climb in. I gesture at the Wild Turkey bottle in Gischler's lap. "You gonna fondle that thing all day, son, or you gonna open it?"

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