Here are a couple of mini-reviews of two recent fiction titles New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions, Marry Bang Kill by Andrew Battershill and Catch my Drift by Genevieve Scott.
Marry Bang Kill by Andrew Battershill
The title of this book comes from a popular question: when presented with three things (typically celebrities) who would you: (need I say more?). While this question is only posed once in the book, the title is a sure attention getter, and the writing between the covers, while perhaps not to everyone’s taste is excellent.
It begins simply enough with small-time thief Tommy Marlo snatching a laptop computer from a teen. Unbeknownst to Tommy is that the laptop belongs to the head of a biker gang and the teen is his daughter. Tommy soon discovers that on this laptop there is a file that tells of the drop-off point of $100,000 dollars. Simple but likeable Tommy acts on his own, manages to get the money, and ignites the origin of an adventurous pursuit story as Tommy heads west to BC and Quadra Island, where his estranged mother lives. On the way, we meet characters like Alan Mouse (“Mousey”) a retired Chicago police detective with a shady past, Glass Jar Jeffries, a small-time dope dealer and a Quadra Island low-life who gets bitten by a rabid dog, and Greta the highly trained contract killer sent to kill Tommy and recover the money he stole. The cast is truly remarkable, and Mr. Battershill writes each one to be likeable despite their flaws and shortcomings on moral issues. If Hunter S. Thompson were to write a crime thriller (which he cannot because he is deceased), Marry Bang Kill would be the result. The character of Mousey, high on drugs and alcohol sitting in a lawn chair in his backyard wildly firing his pistol at random targets was enough to say “Raoul Duke” to me. Quirky, but enjoyable writing, witness this exchange between Mousey and a boatman he has hired to get Tommy off Quadra Island:
“I might be here to see him off, I might not. And I hate to b8reak the professional vibe and all, but take care of him. He, uh, he’s a nice kid.”
The boatman again studied the distance past mousey’s shoulder for a reasonable period before speaking. “I’ll see him over. You’re talking to a man with six children and seven toes. That doesn’t mean anything specific. But it does mean something.”
Mousey smiled at the boatman in the same surprised way he smiled at clean babies.
The best chapter of the book is the alcohol-soaked meeting of Greta the hitman (not “hitwoman”) and Mousey as they banter back and forth in a local bar:
Greta wobbled slightly away from him. “You’re old.”
Mousey grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her up to sit steady. “You can’t prove that.”
Great dialogue, a good story and some memorable individuals all contribute to making Marry Bang Kill a winner in my book.
Catch My Drift by Genevieve Scott
Catch My Drift is at its heart, a mother-daughter story, and at the same time, a story of life imitating life, and not always for the better. It begins in the summer of 1975 with Lorna, a university student and an aspiring competitive swimmer with her sights set on the Olympics. That particular dream ends when she is involved in an accident as a passenger in her boyfriend Kenneth’s car. Both her knees are damaged, and her boyfriend leaves her for the Albert oil fields once she no longer needs his assistance. Devastated, for she had dreams of a family life with Kenneth, she soon finds herself pregnant after a one night stand (against her better judgment, but she had been drinking away her sorrows) with Alex Ketchum, a fellow student (and former child actor) she is tutoring in English. She gives birth to a daughter, Cara, and two years later she and Alex have another child, Jed. This simple and all-too-brief synopsis gives no hint of the engrossing story of Lorna and Cara in the 300+ pages of this excellent read by first-time novelist Genevieve Scott. The story is told from the perspectives of both women and I’m sure any mother (or father for that matter) will identify with the strained relationships between parent and child over many years. This is also a story of what-ifs, of lives that could have had another outcome if a different choice was made, if an action was taken instead of inertia, and so on. Catch My Drift could be considered a “feminist” novel, for the women are the strongest characters (as they often need to be in real life) and the men, while well-meaning, are not models of reliability and steadfastness. Catch My Drift is a beautiful and bittersweet life story that needs to be on your summer reading list.
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