Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: "Dodgers" by Bill Beverly

Dodgers, the debut novel of author Bill Beverly introduces an exciting new talent into the world of literary crime thrillers.  His effortless style and narrative capabilities are reminiscent of the greats that came before him like Richard Price, George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane, but beyond that, bolstered by directions this story takes, I also found hints of writers like Daniel Woodrell, Frank Bill and even Larry Brown. These are two different classes of genre writers: they’re themes of failed redemption and inherited violence are the same, but the places said qualities come out of very different. It is a testament to someone like Beverly, especially with his first novel, to bridge these two classes of books in such a simple and direct way it is amazing something like this has not been done before. It flips a trope, the heroes journey into the darkness of the world and their own heart, on its own head, telling the story of four black youths, all under the age of 25, forced by their drug running boss, to journey out of their South Central Los Angles ghetto and travel halfway across the country to kill a potential witness. We witness this forceful and murky change of scenery through the yes of East; barely fifteen yet still harden by a life on the streets and under the tutelage of his uncle Fin, a successful drug dealer. In the book’s opening, he is watching over one of his uncle’s houses when he fails to alert those in charge of police raid. Because of this, a little girl on vacation is shot in the crossfire and dies in front of East. It is an incident that haunts him throughout the book in both metaphorical and possibly literal ways. This leads into the mission Fin sends East and three others on. Fin knows he is about to be arrested and his only chance of escaping the charge is if a judge can be killed. The only catch is that he is hiding out in Wisconsin. Fin wants East, as well as three other boys who work under him to drive there and kill him. What follows is a journey of discovery, both scary and transformative for the four involved. Beverly, much like his counterparts, recognizes the high tragedy in low people. These four, East, his trigger happy and psychopathic younger brother Ty, Michael Wilson, the oldest and least mature and Walter, overweight, ineffectual yet providing a much-needed balance to the proceedings, are overwhelmed more by the new world of trees, woods, open space and rural poverty, more so than they are of the dreaded task they must complete. The world they find themselves in is a world of possibility, of newness, of escape from their fatalistic vision of what life is like. Yet the deed they are there to follow through on will all but rob them of any kind of viable future. They can see how big the world is, but they are doomed to sheltered existence. A few twists and turns come about, which I won’t reveal, and the ending is one that is inevitable, but satisfying.
Rating: 5/5

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