THE SPEED QUEEN by Stewart O’Nan


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 Granta hotshot O'Nan (The Names of the Dead, 1996, etc.) gives us his variation on In Cold Blood, new and improved, for those who never read the original. On death row in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, on the very night of her execution, Marjorie Standiford is busy with her tape recorder. Last-minute appeal? Last Will and Testament? A farewell letter? No, nothing like that. Marjorie is making notes for Stephen King, who has decided to write a book about her. Apparently Marjorie is a very hot ticket: Natalie, her partner in crime, has already published a bestseller about the twosome's life on the road as bandits and serial killers. But Marjorie has become a Christian since her arrest, you see, and is now worried about her image. ``Sometimes in your books you make fun of religious people. You make them crazy or evil, like in Children of the Corn or Needful Things. I'd appreciate it if you didn't this once. Just make me the way I am.'' So Marjorie proceeds to tell Stephen the whole sad story, from white-trash childhood to pothead adolescence to marriage with speed-freak Lamont on to her eventual discovery of bisexuality with roommate Natalie. Eventually those three set up shop as drug dealers and are quickly successful. When they find the cash from their big haul stolen, however, they turn to outright theft, murdering an old farmer and his wife in the process. From that point on, their fate is basically sealed: They take to the road, barrelling down Route 66 to the border, knocking off a restaurant and several of its customers before getting caught. As much as Marjorie regrets all the mess, she knows it makes a great story. Stretching the credible and highly pretentious: O'Nan's portrait of a redneck who watches Monty Python and works out book treatments on her deathbed would be merely bizarre if she were just a character. Unfortunately, she's the entire story. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48701-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997


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