There can’t be many people who keep up to date in genre circles, who haven’t heard of HBO’s hit crime drama True Detective. Episodes averaged 11.2 million viewers, making it the most watched first season of an HBO Original Series since 2001 and its current IMDB rating is 9.4. I loved the series, so when I saw Nic Pizzolatto’s 2010 debut crime novel Galveston on the shelves, I was interested. After reading the opening line of the blurb – “Roy Cady is, by his own admission. A bad man”- I was sold.
Like True Detective, the book is set around New Orleans and follows two narrative tracks making great use of following the same character, antihero Roy Cady, at different times of his life. The first and main track, follows Roy as he flees New Orleans after narrowly escaping an assassination attempt by his former employer. As he escapes he takes Rocky, a young prostitute barely out of her teens, and her younger sister, Tiffany, who is still a toddler. The three of them travel to Galveston, where they stay in an off road motel, where they try and start a new life but it doesn’t take long for Roy and Rocky to be led by old temptations.
The second is set twenty-one years later in 2008. Roy is in his sixties and living alone in Galveston with his dog. He makes his living as a handy man for his landlord and copes with the unspeakable past, thinking it isn’t real. Roy is a more optimistic version of True Detective’s Cohle character and they both share a fondness for cutting up beer cans to make little aluminium men, a nervous tick that I enjoyed in both formats. Roy is constantly looking over his shoulder and when it becomes apparent a suited man is looking for him, Roy thinks the past has finally caught up with him.
I hardly ever read blurbs on books. I got to the ‘Roy is a bad man line’ and that’s all I needed to know. I do feel sometimes a blurb gives the wrong impression of a book and has you thinking in a particular way before you read it. A review is not the same because it’s only an opinion so you can carry on reading this knowing it’s my view of the book. A blurb seems more official to me and the bad man line made think I was in for a Jim Thompson esc thrill ride of violence and debauchery, which I like a lot, but what I got was just as good. This is an emotional novel at its core; with both Rocky and Roy trying to distinguish their feelings for one another as well is Roy becoming a father figure to the younger sister. The pair of them keep pulling him back where the old Roy would have just skipped town and just carried on. He sees them as his chance at a straight life
There are a few twists that will delight a main stay of crime fiction and wonderfully fleshed out characters that would keep anyone involved. Pizzolatto’s style is stamped all over this and to see so many similarities to true detective whilst still being different is refreshing and excites me for Nic’s future work. I’m hoping he can, or has, a few more books in him but with True Detective’s success I might be waiting a long time.
I hope you give this a try and I would love to know what you think.
Galveston is published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown, and is available in paperback now.