KINGDOM ROAD by K. Patrick Conner


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 The Postman Always Rings Twice Revisited and with happy results, though Conner (Blood Moon, 1987) doesn't offer the quality of originality and discovery that abounded in James M. Cain's sex- driven, Depression-era tough-guy classic--and perhaps a heroine as sharply outlined as Cain's Cora Papadakis. Tequila-popping, joint-smoking Winn Cahill, a none-too-bright but plenty bitter guitarist, smolders under a huge torch for his old mistress Liana, who still lives back in his Central Valley California home, has married upscale, and been violently widowed (did her husband commit suicide or did she shoot him?). Winn tends to see Liana everywhere and explode emotionally. After one such explosion, he heads home, runs into Liana at a July Fourth party, reignites when she asks him to dance with her--and then finds himself taking the fall for her when she shoots her latest lover in the back when he discovers her in bed with Winn and threatens Winn with a knife. Did Liana set Winn up? Did her brutal lover have something to do with her husband's death? She and Winn sink the body in a river and run the lover's truck into a deep area upriver. Winn winds up bumming in Mexico, waiting for Liana to sell her ranch and join him with the cash that will ensure their getaway into new identities. Will she really come? For a brief moment the lovers (?) feel paradise about to roll over them--but Winn is jailed by Mexican police, battered, loses an eye, falls into the Mexican/American criminal-justice system, and is extradited--the technology of criminal law being another Cain joy. The climax in steamy New Orleans has high excitement. Without Cain's visceral hook, though the story builds to a strong payoff. But how can a musician go through a whole novel without one thought about music?

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1991
ISBN: 1-55611-302-1
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991