For a mob enforcer and a teenage whore on the run, there’s no escaping the violent past; this first novel follows a story collection (Between Here and the Yellow Sea, 2006).
Violence shadowed Roy Cady’s childhood in East Texas. His alcoholic father fell to his death; his mother killed herself. She had worked for a bar owner and racketeer, and at 17 Roy started working for him too. Eventually he moved to New Orleans and became the muscle for another racketeer, Stan Ptitko. Now it’s 1987, and 40-year-old Roy is reeling from a lung-cancer diagnosis; he’s convinced it’s terminal. Stan sends him to intimidate a corrupt union official, but it’s a setup; Stan wants him dead. Roy survives a furious shootout and flees, taking along blond 18-year-old Rocky, another Texan. She’s a runaway who’s just started turning tricks. Driving west, she persuades Roy to stop at a secluded cabin and emerges with her baby sister Tiffany. Here the story line frays as we peek into Roy’s future; 20 years on, he’s a cancer survivor, rendering pointless his earlier end-of-life crisis. And the fast-forward doesn’t resolve Pizzolatto’s dilemma—whether to write a pulpy crime story or a tale of the spiritual salvation of an ex-con. It seems like the latter as Roy plays the Good Samaritan, checking the girls into a Galveston motel. But then he drives to Dallas for a reunion with an old flame, now happily married. It’s a devastating encounter. Shrewd, mature Loraine demolishes Roy’s romantic memories, recalling him as an angry, jealous, resentful lover. Back in Galveston, the crime element resurfaces. Roy strangles a motel neighbor, a junkie and potential blackmailer. He then tries some blackmail himself, threatening Stan; his weapon is some incriminating paperwork he’d retrieved from that New Orleans crime scene. The result is catastrophic, for Roy and Rocky both.
An unsatisfying split-personality novel redeemed by some terrific dialogue.