"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of "The Collector" series, The Killing Kind, and Red Right Hand.

"A refreshingly new voice in noir." --Ed Kurtz, author of Nothing You Can Do and The Rib From Which I Remake the World.

"A glorious boilermaker of noir and East Coast gothic. The action is taut as a sprung snare and Bagley tightens the screws with every page." -- Laird Barron, author of Swift to Chase and Blood Standard.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fridays: The Book You Have to Read

Patti Abbott asked me to take part in a new blog project she’s calling Fridays: The Book You Have to Read. Here’s Patti: “I’m worried that we are letting some great books of the recent past slide out of print and out of our consciousness. Not the first-tier classics we can all name perhaps, but that group of books that comes next.” It’s a great idea that we hope will get people to read books they have somehow overlooked. Not lost classics, exactly; more like missed classics by living authors.

This week’s participating writers are Bill Crider, Josephine Damian, Clair Dickson, Travis Erwin, Sandra Ruttan, Sandra Scoppettone, Anthony Neil Smith, Patti and me. Visit their blogs today, and you're sure to find something good. Patti also asked each of us to tag someone to recommend a book next Friday. So, Declan Burke: consider yourself tagged.

My recommendation is:
The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

Ray Midge’s wife Norma has left him for her ex-husband, a weirdo by the name of Guy Dupree. That wouldn’t be so bad—Ray is a quiet, peace-loving guy and Norma was always badgering him to take her out—if not for the fact that they ran off with Ray’s credit cards, a .410 shotgun he’d had since he was a boy, and his meticulously maintained Ford Torino. Ray waits for the credit card bills to come in so he can track Dupree and Norma.

Driving Dupree’s Buick, which has four mismatched tires, a hole in the floor and engine problems, Ray follows their trail through Texas, then on down to Mexico and eventually to Dupree’s father’s farm in British Honduras. Along the way, Ray runs into a string of delightfully strange characters, not the least of whom is Dr. Reo Symes. On the run himself, Symes is a disgraced physician living in an old broken-down school bus called The Dog of the South. Things go from bad to disastrous for Ray: he runs out of money, a border guard confiscates his pistol, he discovers his beloved Torino in a junkyard and, when he finally gets to the farm, Dupree is crazier than ever and Norma is gone. But it doesn’t end there…

Charles Portis (1933- ) is the author of five novels: Norwood (1965), True Grit (1968), The Dog of the South (1979), Masters of Atlantis (1985) and Gringos (1991). I recommend them all, and I wish the man were more prolific.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Patrick. I was only familiar with the first two and probably because movies were made from them. I'm gonna try this one, which sounds terrific.

Bill Crider said...

Wonderful book, but then so is anything by Portis.


One of my all-time favorites, and one of the few books I regularly re-read.

Josephine Damian said...

Dupree’s Buick sounds a lot like my car.

To paraphrase the opening line from QUEENPIN:

"I want the Torino."

I gotta admit I never heard of the book or the author, but I'll check it out. Thanks for the recommend.

Nice to "meet" a fellow crime scribe, and thanks for the linky love. I'll be sure to link you in the blogroll chez Josie.

Neil said...

I've wanted to read Portis for a while, but kept forgetting. This provides a good excuse to hunt down a few of them, I think

Travis Erwin said...

All these suggestions this week are making me see that I need to read more mystery and crime fiction. I seem to be missing out on a lot of great sounding novel.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Bill and Steve: I've lost track of how many times I've read those five novels...still hoping he'll give us at least one more. It's been 17 years since Gringos.

Patti, Josephine and Neil: You can't go wrong with Portis. He's one of those guys who is often referred to as "a writer's writer." It was hard picking just one of his novels for this project, since I love them all. Turned into an "eenie-meenie" sort of thing.

Travis: Portis isn't a crime writer, though there are always plenty of shady doings in his books.

William Boyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Boyle said...

The Dog of the South is incredible. Definitely my favorite Portis. Great pick.