Thursday, August 6, 2015

It won't be our future. It'll be our noose.

It's been awhile since I read any Dennis Lehane* and Julie had given me a copy of Coronado for Xmas as part of my Secret Santa gift. It took me until June to read it. And until August to review it. I'm so good at staying on top of things.

Unlike the other Lehane I've read, Coronado isn't a novel. It's 5 short stories PLUS a two-act play based on one of those earlier short stories. Short stories can be very hit or miss for me. Sometimes it can be hard to really develop a story in such little time. For the most part I've found the collections of short stories, by a bunch of different authors, do not work for me. Even if half of the short stories are great, the other half are a bust (usually just boring) and the whole collection is...well, not ruined but at least leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I've been most successful with Stephen King collections,** so I mean this as a compliment when I say that Lehane's stuff reminds me of King's.

I don't mean that they write the same way. Lehane's short stories have the same feel and style as his novels, just as King's short stories feel like King. They both deal with the darker sides of humanity, but in different ways, yet both of them can construct a hell of a story in very little time. Since I never know how to handle short story collections, let's go with a quick description of each.

Running Out of Dog: The small town of Eden has a problem. They wanted to attract tourists with an amusement park, Eden Falls. But the town is almost overrun with stray dogs and the town needs to do something about them. Then there are the people in the town, many of whom are young men recently returned from Vietnam and carrying the weight of what they saw with them. Elgin is one of these men, well-liked. Enough so that people put up with his childhood friend Blue who isn't quite all there. There's love and infatuation and the desperate things people will do.
A small town is a hard place to keep a secret, and a small southern town with all that heat and all those open windows is an even harder place than most.

ICU: Daniel seems to have a normal life but a mysterious figure is turning up telling people to stay away from him. Then they start following him around. He decides to try hiding from them in the hospital. People don't really question you too hard if you're in the ICU.
There is a basic human concern in hospitals, a unity. And he begins to suspect he is addicted to it.

Gone down to Corpus: It's a story of revenge against perceived wrongs. Anger against the haves, from the have-nots. About the path that takes you to this moment, and when the moment doesn't quite go as pictured.
She looks like she can remember a time before she got where she is now, and all those different who-she-could-have-beens fork out like trails before us, branching off and branching off into all that Texas dust until there's so many of them they just have to fade away to nothing or else she'll go blind trying to keep count.

Mushrooms: More revenge, this time a neighborhood story. Which is a Lehane specialty. There are drugs and people being disrespected and again, everything you can expect from the guy.
Can't have some fool traveling for free through life like he got an all-day bus pass. You got to pay the freight. Everyone. Got to.

Until Gwen and Coronado: "Until Gwen" is the short story, which was later turned into the play "Coronado" which has apparently been performed and I would totally go to see it, even if it feels like it would be a very short play. Con men and love. One last grift. And of course, loyalties are questioned. The short story is in the second person, which gives it this sense of immediacy. And you (the reader) are trying to catch up with what you (the character) already knows. It works very well, both the story and the play.
Here's what you know about your father above all else - people have a way of vanishing in his company.

Overall, it's a short book filled with very short stories and one short play. There's not as much meat as the King stories and I can't say this is my favorite of his work but it does make me appreciate what he can do. And makes me think I should pick up another of the Kenzie/Gennaro books.

GIF Rating:
*Sacred, back in April 2014, at which point I also said "Hey, haven't read any Lehane in awhile."
**Seriously, if you want to try some King but aren't sure what, try some of his short stories. The Everything's Eventual collection is probably my favorite.

Title quote from page 205

Lehane, Dennis. Coronado: Stories. Harper Perennial, 2006.