Fear and Loathing meets Ironweed in THE LONG DRUNK: a hilarious heroic journey on the skids
I hardly know where to begin. The most off-putting first chapter you'll ever be hooked by? The most offensive protagonist you'll ever love? The most revolting cast of wretches you'll ever stand up and cheer for? I just finished reading THE LONG DRUNK, and I honestly don't know which of us is more appalling: Eric Coyote for writing this bodily-fluid-soaked misadventure or me for loving it.
As a die hard Raymond Chandler fan, I was intrigued by the idea of an "ultra noir" novel about a homeless man in Venice, California who uses Chandler's books as a primer when necessity compels him to solve a mystery.
Coyote very wisely opens with a poetically vivid glimpse of Venice's soft underbelly before plunging us into the unfiltered conversations and filthy hand to mouth existence of Murphy, the damaged anti-hero, and his fallen crew. If I hadn't had that preface - that initial assurance that, yes, this is an incredibly talented writer - I wouldn't have made it through the first chapter.
Murphy, Bones, Dirty Maggie, Legless Joe and an assortment of other beach bums are rounded up by the cops in an effort to shake out any clue in a murder case that's rapidly going cold. When Murphy realizes the $25K reward being offered is the only hope for saving the life of his best friend, he sets out to solve the case. He comes up with clues the same way he scratches out his miserable existence: dint of industry, addled ingenuity and unwavering purpose.
Not a punch is pulled, not a fuck is given, not a politically correct construct is spared. Murphy is on a noble quest, but what makes this character impossible to quit on is the genuine (and heartbreakingly credible) dedication to his friend and the brutal honesty with which he recognizes his own impossibly effed up limitations.
As an editor, there are some passages and technicalities I would have loved to get my hands on, but the storytelling is sure and audacious, and ultimately, as difficult as it is to read at times, the physicality and pathos are exactly what's needed to expose the true soul of this novel: a grittily horrid heroic journey that made me laugh out loud, fight tears, hug my dog and take a long, hot shower.
Highly recommended but not for the prissy.
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