Friday, 6 June 2014



From the creator, writer, and executive producer of the HBO crime series True Detective, comes a dark and visceral literary debut set along the seedy wastelands of Galveston.

On the same day that Roy Cady is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he senses that his boss, a dangerous loan-sharking bar-owner, wants him dead. Known “without affection” to members of the boss’s crew as “Big Country” on account of his long hair, beard, and cowboy boots, Roy is alert to the possibility that a routine assignment could be a deathtrap. Which it is. Yet what the would-be killers do to Roy Cady is not the same as what he does to them, which is to say that after a smoking spasm of violence, they are mostly dead and he is mostly alive.

Before Roy makes his getaway, he realizes there are two women in the apartment, one of them still breathing, and he sees something in her frightened, defiant eyes that causes a fateful decision. He takes her with him as he goes on the run from New Orleans to Galveston, Texas—an action as ill-advised as it is inescapable. The girl’s name is Rocky, and she is too young, too tough, too sexy—and far too much trouble. Roy, Rocky, and her sister hide in the battered seascape of Galveston’s country-western bars and fleabag hotels, a world of treacherous drifters, pickup trucks, and ashed-out hopes. Any chance that they will find safety there is soon lost. Rocky is a girl with quite a story to tell, one that will pursue and damage Roy for a very long time to come.

Recalling the moody violence of the early novels of Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson, this powerful, potent, and atmospheric thriller is impossible to put down. Constructed with maximum tension and haunting aftereffect, written in darkly beautiful prose, Galveston announces the arrival of a major new literary talent.

Galveston has gotten my June reading off to a cracking start. To be honest it’s a job to pen a review that would do the book justice.

The blurb above has Pizzolatto compared to Cormac McCarthy, someone who I have read and enjoyed (mostly) without feeling able to wholeheartedly endorse for others. At times McCarthy is incomprehensible and loses me, Pizzolatto had me on board for the whole of this ride.   

We touch upon mortality, loneliness, failed romance and regrets. Our protagonist, Roy Cady is diagnosed with cancer. His boss sets him up and Cady survives and flees with a young prostitute.
Most of the cast of characters we encounter are damaged and brutalised and worn out by life in general and are doing their best to survive; some stoically and some with the assistance of substances. This includes law breakers and citizens, whose dreams have soured.

Cady, a low-level career criminal is not a typical hero. He’s killed, he’s capable of, if not always comfortable with, committing acts of extreme violence, but Pizzolatto has such skill as a writer, that he’s sympathetic and someone who you care about. When his travelling companion Rocky, drags her four year old sister, Tiffany into any already tense situation, we have glimpses of the man Roy could have been if his life had trodden a different path.

When Roy’s and Rocky’s situation descends into chaos, after a drunken mistake, Roy has a choice, either to protect the innocent, Tiffany and others in her spectrum or extract revenge on his former boss.    

An extremely satisfying book, filled with broken people, expertly told in an arc that spans 20 years of Roy Cady’s life. Hard to find enough suitable accolades for it.

Highly recommended.

Pizzolatto is probably better known for his writing and producing of the recent US drama, True Detective. His website is here. He also has a collection of short stories out - Between Here and the Yellow Sea. (Something not currently residing on the shelves of the library.)

5 from 5

My friend, Keishon, has expertly reviewed this over at her blog - Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog  - here.
Thanks to her for continually reminding-pestering-nagging me to read this. 

I bought this one recently on Amazon UK for kindle.


  1. Great review and thanks for the mention. My only hope is that he writes more crime fiction! I bought his short stories and read about one story about a base jumper. Very interesting but since it's the only fiction I have left of his to read, I am saving the rest for later.

    1. Cheers, I found a couple of the stories available online (Jose Ignacio - tip-off. thanks), plus downloaded a sample of the book from Amazon. I'm not in danger of running out of books anytime soon, but I would queue to get a second novel by him!

  2. Col, having read both yours and Keishon's reviews, I accept your recommendations but not just yet. I'll possibly be reading more books this year as I've cut back on the reviews, partly due to my own writing currently in the works.

    1. Prashant, no problem, I'm sure it will keep.

  3. I'll think about this. It sounds too noir for me, but on the other hand your enthusiasm is infectious...

  4. I have this on my Kindle, hope to get to it sometime in the next year. I am encouraged that you liked it so much, and Keishon also. The idea of it covering 20 years of Roy's life is appealing.