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Deadfolk (The Mangel Series) Kindle Edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book is populated with characters that you can almost smell -- even before they wind up dead and rotting. The setting -- the town of "Mangel" -- is English backwater by way of the Twilight Zone, and the ripe language reflects that. But really it's not that far removed from midwest or Tex vernacular. There were some words I just did not know but I kind of rode the context -- you're not going to miss any big plot points over them. Also the local argot gets you more involved in the surroundings. When you look at this place you can see how someone like Royston Blake can happen. You kind of feel for him.
I recommend Deadfolk to anyone who favors originality, knows how to laugh, and doesn't baulk at some nastiness. This is a book that reads well and is SO different from the usual fare. Royston Blake is a real piece of work.
The entire work is narrated in a low-class industrial English slang that is heavy with synonyms for sex equipment and for sexual stereotypes for men who 'have lost it.' Royston Blake has 'lost his bottle' (courage) in this work and his lot in life is to fight to get it back. The major mystery of the book is what/who really killed his wife, Beth, and the events dance back and forth to answer that question with a murky sort of reality that pervades the whole story. Many Williams fans see dark humor in many of the scenes: I can almost see it but my vision is not strong that way and I am more apt to see the tragic side of these scenes. Dare I say that this work is a 'beach read?' It is a page-turner that I would not want to undertake just prior to bed time.
Blake is a doorman/bouncer for a local pub. When he doesn't stand up to one of the Munster brothers the rumor spreads that he has lost his bottle/courage. When he sets out to restore his reputation everything starts going downhill. Murders, disappearing bodies, betrayal by his mates. Had to laugh at the attempts at disguise and his weird code of ethics...never hit a bird(woman).
If you laughed at the wood-chipper scene in the movie "Fargo" you will find this book hilarious. This is not your usual thriller/mystery but good for a change of pace.
I admit, two things first drew me to this book: the cover, an angry fly w/ splotches of blood on its wings and legs; and the author's name, which is very similar to an American Noir writer of the 1950s (Charles Williams). I'm a big fan of Noir novels from the early Gold Medal paperbacks era and when I read the description blurb, I realized this one would take place in the U.K. I've never read any noir-ish books from that area so this sounded like a good chance.
Honestly, in order to get more readers, the product description could be better. To read it, it doesn't sound like that much of a story - about a guy who's "lost his bottle" or his mojo, ala Austin Powers except w/ grimmer circumstances. In the first 70 to 80 pages the book does makes you think, You've got some great characters here but I sure wish there were more for them to do. While you're contemplating that the bottom drops out and you find yourself smack dab in the middle of one helluva noir. You also find that though the author shares a name w/ a pretty famous scribbler of 1st person noirs, the author he most closely resembles is that other titan of the same era, Jim Thompson.
The characters that populate this novel are brash, loud, ornery, uncouth, unsettling - but it's written so well, so much like you're sitting in a pub listening to some old rabbel-rouser, that I was hooked. Even during the less active chapters at the beginning, I couldn't help but want to see what would happen next, if only because I loved the song of the Cockney English on full display. This is where Williams really shines. He's a natural storyteller and the music lulls you into the story's world w/ the first sentence.
Each character is also fully realized, not just the narrator, Blake. Each of his mates and would-be-lovers is fully developed to the point that you feel like if you were ever to take a plane to England, you could call up one of these folks and they'd say, "Sure, mate, come on down. We's gots a place that you kin stay." They might just rob you and belt you over the head while you were there, but then that would be part of the experience.
The town of Mangel where all the action takes place is as much a character as the denizens who populate it. By following Blake as the novel becomes more active you will feel as though you're right there in a dusty, ill-lit bar, or riding down a Mangel street in one of many cars, about which Blake has lots of tell you. Blake is a gearhead and spends several paragraphs detailing the good and the bads of each model. I don't know anything about cars, but from what Blake says, it sounds the way a race car driver or a collector of fine European automobiles would coo over their latest purchase, all the while Blake is driving a regular ol mid-level car. All of his run downs about the intricacies of own such-and-such a car had me grinning from ear to ear. He's a classic B.S.'er, but you still have to love im.
As some of the other reviews have pointed out, this book is definitely not for the squeamish. There's a fair amount of sharp language on each page and by the last page the violence is ratcheted up to 10. So, fair warning on that. I didn't find any of it gratuitous; Blake is just depicting the world in which he lives and the people who feel trapped there and use sex and violence as their "outlets".
The only thing I would suggest, and the only thing that keeps me from giving this all five stars, is that it's a slow start. You love the characters from the very beginning, but there just isn't much they do. It's more like you're meeting everyone and, Blake being a seasoned raconteur, eases into the story w/ no great haste. It's charming in a way, but I think could cause some potential readers to feel turned off that not enough is happening. Plus, the same material is sprinkled periodically throughout the remainder of the text, so isn't truly necessary.
But all in all, this is a fine read. But do avoid if you have a weak stomach :)
This author avoids that publishing morass, which is why he has a foot in several camps, and possibly because there is a touch of the "literary" writer in him. If you are a reader who liked John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces from a few years back then you may well be ready for this ambitious novel. He has a finely developed feel for subject description and an ear for dialogue - and - there is not a single page one could call routine or formulaic. That is quite an achievement all on its own. If there is a rather absurdist edge with violence, it is closer to Sweeney Todd in character than Freddy Kruger. Many authors who we would consider to be "classic" today used many of the same horrific imagery and events (Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Sinclair Lewis, etc) so don't let that stop you from letting this author tell you his story the way he wants to tell it.
BTW, the reviewer xkydivr left a witty review that is worth checking out.
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