Due to the fact that I was alarmingly obsessed with the HBO series True Detective, I was pretty excited to read Galveston, Nic Pizzolatto’s novel. After all, Pizzolatto was the creator of the series and I had heard that there were some similarities in character types and motifs, so I was very hopeful.
The story leans towards a hard boiled style narrative, in that the story is told first person through the eyes of a hard case named Roy, a strong man for a shady mob figure in New Orleans. The story begins with Roy receiving the news that he has cancer and is going to die. Things turn bad for Roy at work, finding himself the focus of a hit, and he soon finds himself on the run for his life, whatever that is worth now. Immediately, this creates a unique juxtaposition of reflection and a nothing-to-lose abandon within Roy and this is reflected nicely in the narrative. Hoping to escape New Orleans for the anonymity of Galveston, Roy winds up in a strange alliance of sorts with a very young prostitute named Rocky who is just a pawn caught in the crossfire when Roy is set up. Much to his dismay, he feels strangely responsible for her, despite the trouble that she brings along the way and the history that haunts her. The question is, will Galveston be far enough, or will they unravel all on their own?
The story takes place in the dirty corners of the gulf, mainly shady motels, doughnut shops, and vacant seashores in Galveston, among a cast of forgotten, downtrodden, sketchy, and sometimes dangerous folks, a collection of the lonely and truly desperate.
Overall and in general, I really enjoyed this book for what it was, a fun and relatively quick read. At the risk of sounding like I’m discussing a recipe, it had just the right combination of action, suspense, violence, and a variety of other vices and sins, as well as a dark cynicism that I find strangely comforting. I really liked the relationship between Roy and Rocky and the manner in which it was developed. There was definitely a sentimentality to the book, which in some ways is inevitable when the narrator begins with the notice of his imminent death, but I didn’t find it too heavy-handed or annoying. The resulting nostalgia, which works on a couple levels in this novel, is both cynical and redemptive, and it worked for me.
In truth, the only similarity between this book and True Detective is the setting, the landscape itself, set mostly in Galveston, but also including other places along the gulf, all fulfilling that same notion made clear at the very beginning of True Detective…that people who live out there might as well be living on the moon. And just as the landscapes and setting for True Detective were barren and haunting, so they are in Galveston, focusing on a setting that echos with loneliness, flux, and regrets.
If you are a fan of True Detective, then I would say this is worthwhile read, but if you’re like me and your TBR list is already bloated and daunting, then I’m not sure I would go out of my way. That is not to say that this isn’t a good book. It is and I enjoyed it.