Sunday, March 21, 2010

Good Bad Guys & Bad Good Guys

Yesterday I did something I rarely do: in a few hours I read a 300 page novel from cover to cover. I usually characterize myself as a moderate reader speed-wise but yesterday was different.

I cruised through Gone ‘Til November by Wallace Stroby. I think my ability to read the novel quickly might be due to Mr. Stroby’s skill as a former newspaper writer and editor rather then my skill as a speed reader.

The book is a murder mystery based on an event that brings together a few sheriffs deputies in rural northern Florida with gangsters from Newark, NJ and big city southern Florida. Some of the events and background are predicable, but that provides the reader with a starting-off point with each character. We already know stuff about these folks before we even open the book. The story moved along quickly with a few twists and turns until everything climaxes in the final dozen or so pages.

In the story, the two main antagonists are individuals who we might normally easily type-cast. We have a bad guy who on occasion does good or at least “honorable” things and a good guy who does bad or “despicable” things. To add to the confusion the bad guy often does terrible things to horrible people, implying that they deserve exactly what they get, and the good guy has done only one bad thing that has lead to the complete downward spiral of his life. Of course, we find that the protagonist of the story has had a love interest relationship with one antagonist and in a weird sort of way develops a concerned relationship while trading pistol shots with the other.

However, the murder and mayhem depicted throughout the story is not what I was thinking about once I had closed the covers. It was the idea that we have now transmuted a “Robin Hood” type character so thoroughly. The concept of the good person forced to be an outlaw who does only good has been transformed here into a person who doesn’t have the baggage of the good person forced into banditry. Being on the wrong side of the law is where this individual intended to be all along. And as another twist, in the “Dirty Harry” movies we have a cop who “lives by his own rules” to do good and we’re all now very familiar with that individual. In this story we have the same individual, living by his own rules, who uses his talents for nefarious purposes and does bad.

There was plenty of eye-brow raising and internal confusion on my part all along the way. And once finished I had a couple of questions including: who really was the intended protagonist of the book? I could also be easily reading way more into the book then the author indented. There are plenty of chase scenes, lots of gunplay, along with sex, drugs and reggae music coupled with enough back stories among the characters to keep the reader busy for a while. So you might want to mosey over to the Seven-Day Book Shelf and give the read a spin.

If you’ve read a book that left you scratching your head about the motives of the characters lately, be sure to post a comment.

See you at the Library,

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