Saturday, March 14, 2015

Review: "The Marauders" by Tom Cooper

Books like Tom Cooper’s insanely funny debut The Marauders are the reason that I read so much. Very rarely, about a few times a year, I read a book that gets everything right, uses some of my favorite themes in one of my favorite settings (here, its crime and redemption in the Deep South) and crafts a brilliant story around a disparate group of fully formed characters with big flaws and even bigger dreams. Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of the non-horror novels of Joe R. Lansdale, the absolute best of Daniel Woodrell, and the books of my fellow statesman, Frank Bill, with an added sense of cheeky humor found in Elmore Leonard. But what makes Cooper’s book shine amongst some other books capitalizing on the success of True Detective is the infinite size of the hearts of many of the people who populate the small bayou town of Jeanette. After the BP oil spill, and the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina, a lot of the people in this story have lost hope and are just scrapping by. Cooper’s book, instead focuses on  the dreamers in this little town, home grown and from away, who, in spite of the harrowing circumstances still hold on to the hopes and dreams that existed in them long before their lives fell apart, and the last ditch effort of theirs to make their dreams come true. But it isn’t all pretty in this book; there is plenty of mayhem, both hilarious and heart-stoppingly cruel, to warrant reading long after bedtime. There are four strands that make up this novel. The main one concerns Gus Lindquist, a one-armed, pill-popping shrimp boat captain whose wasted life, including an ex-wife and an estranged daughter, and his dreams of finding a long buried treasure deep in the swamp. Fellow shrimp boat captains Wes Trench and his are still reeling from the death of Wes’s mom during Hurricane Katrina, which causes deep-seeded hatred between the two that has never been addressed. Cosgrove and Hanson, two out-of-town petty criminals are themselves on a similar quest to Lindquist; only this is a large cache of weed instead of gold doubloons. Another outsider, Grimes, is a BP spokesman with a chip on his shoulder, sent to his former hometown to “buy off” residents whose lives were destroyed by the spill, one of which is his estranged mother who he hasn’t seen in years. And finally there are the Toup brothers, twins Victor and Reginald, distant cousins of Vinnie and Pork from Lansdale’s “Night They Missed the Horror Show”. They are drug lords, with a psychopathic streak a mile wide and a complete disregard for human life. All these narratives come together to form a pleasurable yet rewarding experience, with these broken soul’s struggle for meaning and happiness juxtaposed against some pretty hilarious scenes involving buffoonery, robbery, and a vibrating dildo being used as a weapon against a home-invading alligator. A hilarious unique and ultimately heart-warming tale from the Deep South, this is one book that will surely be making an appearance on my best love list at the end of the year.

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