In his fifth novel full of ""quick, terrible rough-stuff,"" Woodrell (The Ones You Do, 1992, etc.) makes it clear he's...


GIVE US A KISS: A Country Noir

In his fifth novel full of ""quick, terrible rough-stuff,"" Woodrell (The Ones You Do, 1992, etc.) makes it clear he's itching to escape the confines of genre fiction: that, like his Ozark-bred novelist-protagonist, he's hoping for that breakout book. And this down-and-dirty bit of ""for real-ism"" just might do the deed, with Woodrell adding a smart dose of writerly in-jokes and bottom-up social analysis to his usual mix of peckerwood poetry and butt-kicking violence. Doyle Redmond, a 35-year-old novelist, has maintained through the years ""a crippling allegiance to his roots."" And those roots are in the dark, semi-lawless, hillbilly mountains of the Arkansas-Missouri border. After his marriage to an ambitious poet hits the skids, Doyle splits for California but then winds up back in the Ozarks on a mission from his parents: They want him to find his brother, Smoke, in order to settle some matters with the law in Kansas City, where they live. Eventually, the brothers connect, but Smoke has some unfinished bidniz in the hills, where he's cultivating an ample crop of ""wacky-backy"" and needs Doyle's help. Intoxicated with ""the stink of self-expressive and unapologetic wrongness,"" Doyle becomes entangled in Smoke's get-rich scheme. Part of the incentive is the 19-year-old daughter of Smoke's lady-friend: Niagara Mattux ""hillbillyette beauty"" with Hollywood ambitions and a taste for hoodoo (""goomer doctorin' ""). The one drawback to the plan is the Dolly family, ""a bloodline noted for engendering in its members a rare sort of invincible stupidity""--and a family that's been feuding with the Redmonds for years. The bloody redneck showdown results in a ""murder of errors,"" with Doyle-the-writer landing just the punch his career needed. The Jim Harrison-like incantations to the god Imam are an annoying affectation. That aside, Woodrell elbows his way to the forefront of tough-guy fiction and maybe even bestseller lists.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 1996


Page Count: 240

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995