Friday, January 18, 2013

Review of Go With Me by Castle Freeman (Duckworth Overlook, 2008)

In a small rural town in the backwoods of Vermont Sheriff Wingate arrives at work to find a young woman sleeping in her car, clutching a paring knife.  Lillian claims she is being stalked by Blackway, a local bad cop who lost his job after she complained of being shaken-down.  There’s no evidence though that it was Blackway that smashed up her car and killed her cat.  Wingate’s advice is to leave town before Blackway escalates the violence, but the woman is not going to run away like her boyfriend; she wants Blackway dealt with.  The sheriff sends her to an old sawmill where some of the town’s men gather to drink and chat to ask for their help.  They send her off with Lester, a wily old-timer, and Nate the Great, a massive young man with more brawn than brains.  Whilst the pair feel they are a match for Blackway, Lillian is having second thoughts, but once they’re on his trail there’s no backing out.

Go With Me is a country noir novella, full of atmosphere and sense of place.  The great strength of the book, however, is the characterisation, dialogue and prose.  Freeman’s style is all show and no tell, and with a few deft sentences he paints a vivid picture.  The dialogue is absolutely spot-on, with some very well penned scenes where people are talking over and past each other, or at cross-purposes, or where conversations have nice elliptic loops, and sometimes all of these at once.  The story itself is divided in two main strands.  The first is Lillian’s quest to deal with Blackway aided by Lester and Nate.  The second is four old timers chatting about their chances of success as they drink the day away in the mill.  They are nicely complementary, the second providing a kind of contextual commentary on the first.  The plot moves at a relatively swift pace to a tense conclusion.  Whilst the book worked very well as a novella, and would provide a very good basis for a movie, my sense was the story was a little too linear, with no twists or turns or subplots, and if worked up into a longer piece could have been exceptional.  Nonetheless, Go With Me is an engaging and enjoyable slice of country noir.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Rob. I have recommended this book to many people and they all liked it. Mr. Freeman probably has no idea.

Ron Smyth said...

Sounds terrific. I love country noir.

Mantan Hattan said...

Based on this review & Patti's comment I just purchased this title from an on-line dealer.
Nice sales job!