I have something a little different today in the form of a guest post from one of my friends. I’m going to refer to her as M, because if I put her Christian name on here she will send me abusive WhatsApp messages and I don’t want that. Not least because she knows where the bodies are buried.
She is a fellow bookworm and she and I are in a book club together, we go to book events like author signings and book festivals often and a big chunk of our conversations consist of one of us asking the other if we have read that book we have been promising we will read so that we can discuss it. We also chat about a lot of other stuff too but what happens on WhatsApp stays on WhatsApp.
She reads as vorociously as me and writes the odd review for herself for fun but unlike me she doesn’t post them online. Until now.
So, without much further ado, here is her review of Dodgers by Bill Beverly, a book I haven’t read but really, really want to because M makes it sound pretty amazing!
About The Book
Dodgers is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that recalls the very best of Richard Price, Denis Johnson, and J.D. Salinger.
When East, a low-level lookout for a Los Angeles drug organisation, loses his watch house in a police raid, his boss recruits him for a very different job: a road trip – straight down the middle of white, rural America – to assassinate a judge in Wisconsin.
Having no choice, East and a crew of untested boys – including his trigger-happy younger brother, Ty – leave the only home they ve ever known in a nondescript blue van, with a roll of cash, a map and a gun they shouldn t have.
Along the way, the country surprises East. The blood on his hands isn t the blood he expects. And he reaches places where only he can decide which way to go – or which person to become.
By way of The Wire and in the spirit of Scott Smith s A Simple Plan and Richard Price s Clockers, Dodgers is itself something entirely original: a gripping literary crime novel with a compact cast whose intimate story opens up to become a reflection on the nature of belonging and reinvention.
In Bill Beverly’s Dodgers East is a young man, a gang member, working to protect a crack house. Quite how young he is and his role in the outfit shocking in itself, before we even get to the body of the novel. In the very first chapter East fails in his duty to protect the house and must face punishment. Or his redemption. It’s never really clear which. The task he and three others are set is a hit, an assassination; they must cross thcountry and kill a witness. And so they set out, the spectre of that last day following East all the way.
The narrative, told in the third person but ultimately East’s story, shows him as a sensible sort. He’s a watcher, by trade and ultimately in life. He watches his friends, he watches the country go by and he tries to do the right thing, as far as he can. He tries so hard that when things don’t go quite as planned it is heart stopping. In one chapter, one tiny little two-page chapter, the story shifts so much that I had to go back and read it again. I read it slowly as I tried to make sense of it, wondering what I had missed, before realising that I hadn’t missed anything and that the twist was just the sort of catastrophic event that was always going to happen to someone like East. And the book continues like that to the end. Just when you think you have it figured out there’s a switch that changes everything.
The first chapter of Dodgers is so perfect and devastating it could be a short story in its own right. It’s the beginning of this novel, but an ending for East in more ways than one. Right from the start I really had a feeling that I could see the world through East’s eyes. I could feel the heat of LA and then, later, the wonder of feeling snow for the first time.
East was half-deranged with cold and lack of sleep. The dark of the night started flaking away. Bugs, East’s mind said, and then: Something is wrong with me. Something wrong with my mind. Then he saw it: The lightest snow. The lightest bits, riding instead of falling on an imperceptible wind. Unseen, unstoppable, brushing past them like strangers.
I loved the balance between the slang language used by East and his companions and the descriptions that sometimes broach on poetic. I loved that the descriptions of the sometimes bleak countryside mirrored the hopelessness of the young men’s lives. I loved recognising the subtly prophetic lines as East heads into the unknown, although as much as thought I knew what they meant, the ending was satisfyingly unexpected.
Dodgers is such an unusual book. I’m not sure if it can be categorised as crime, coming of age, or literary fiction. Or maybe all three. Maybe because of that combination, it really is one of the best things I’ve read this year. It kept me hooked from the first page and by the last page I had the urge
to start all over again.