Daniel Woodrell (Winter's Bone)
I've read a few of this guy's novels now, and though I've decided to give him a break for a bit, they have all been very good. The first one I read was The Ones You Do, which was like stepping into a party that had already begun, you know, I guess it was a continuation on a lot of characters that had already been introduced in different books he's written, like Muscle for the Wing and Under the Bright Lights. They follow a family called the Shades, and one is a detective which is why I never bothered pursuing those works, they seem focused mostly on the detective and I haven't been in a police/army/detective mood lately.
As far as I know, all of his novels take place in the Ozarks. The author does an excellent job describing the settings in each chapter, though sometimes he's using words for specific land formations and tree types and I can't always exactly follow what he's talking about as I haven't spent my life living in a mountainous region like the author has.
The Ones You Do was still good despite me not knowing some of the characters' history, which I could tell was a big part of some chapters. It's about the father of the Shades, John X Shade, this old badass guy who used to be a professional pool player but lost his abilities to age. He has a young daughter and they share a lot of comical dialogue. One of the single most entertaining chapters I've read is in this book. It's about five pages that follows an assassin through a day of his life, starting with the first cigarette he smokes to start his day and the next six that follow. The character -this Luca Brasi type mother fucker- talks about keeping his addictions on a leash and how he's stern on smoking seven cigarettes a day, so smoke by smoke you know how far into his day he's getting. This guy is after John X Shade and aims to kill him when he finds him due to some money John stole. The book takes you to John's hometown and you meet his sons who he has neglected, his first wife, some guy whose wife cheated on him with John X. Once you get to that broken down urban community, the book gets really good, and I thought the ending fit perfectly.
The Death of Sweet Mister was really good to me, but I found the character easy to relate to. If you haven't been a fat kid, you might just find this work decent but then you might enjoy it a lot anyway. There's some real low life assholes and some petty crimes going down and Woodrell's Ozarks are always entertaining no matter where you are. This book is about a kid whose mom is a major slut but kind of a ray of sunshine at the same time. She's with a guy that beats the crap out of her and gets her son to help him steal pills right out of sick people's houses. It is by far his darkest novel. Things get crazy around the end.
Winter's Bone was fucking awesome. Seriously read this, it's good. It's about this sixteen year old girl that lives in the Ozarks as a member of one of the major families in that area, the Dollies, this group of rebels that can't stand anybody but their own kind, especially the law. Her mother is crazy and her dad is missing and she has to look after these two young boys while the law keeps coming around telling her if she doesn't find her dad in a few weeks, they're going to lose the house and the property, which is ancient Dolly land that her great great great grandparents settled on. I think this is his best novel for sure. I didn't love the ending, but up until the last ten or fifteen pages I loved every second of it.