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DEEPWATER by Matthew F. Jones

DEEPWATER

By Matthew F. Jones

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-58234-059-5
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Once again experimenting with commercial forms, Jones (Blind Pursuit, 1997, etc.) turns boondocks noir into hallucinogenic horror as a down-on-his-luck drifter finds love and villainy in a seedy lakeside motel. Nat Banyon stops his stolen car on a mountain road to help Herman Finch, an aging, pistol-packing former boxer who’s run his Cadillac into a ditch. Herman offers him pocket money and free breakfasts if he’ll paint his run-down Deepwater Motel, situated near an Indian-reservation gambling casino. Nat accepts when he glimpses Mrs. Finch: a dark-haired sexpot half Herman’s age. Not long after Nat sets up his ladder, Iris and Nat are happily going at it in the first of many hot sex scenes, plotting to escape the motel with Herman’s hidden cache of cash. What seems to be a familiar trail worn smooth by James M. Cain and Jim Thompson turns weird as Nat, an orphan, begins to have eerie nightmares and daydreams about his troubled past, a baby who may have been drowned, and Herman’s menacing rottweiler. Among the peculiar thoughts Nat entertains is that Herman might be his father. After police find the waterlogged, half-eaten corpse of a ne’er-do-well who owed Herman money, Herman, who hints he knows his wife is having an affair, cuts deals with Nat that put him only deeper in debt. Then Herman makes Nat an offer he can’t refuse: beat him in a boxing match, and all Nat’s debts are canceled. As Nat trains for the fight, he finds himself waking up at odd hours of the night, filthy and wounded without any memory of what has passed. Iris warns him that Herman never loses a bet, while Nat wonders whether it’s Herman, the rottweiler, or something worse controlling his thoughts and planning his doom. The postman rings again in a malignant pastoral of steamy sex, Oedipal terror, and a few too many Faulknerian fever dreams.