To be read with: copious amounts of ale, drunk from the can with dirty hands and paid for with the money you earned killing a man.
I loved this book. It was like a Cormac McCarthy that was infused with humour. It’s the kind of book you would want the Coen brothers to adapt to film, with Josh Brolin playing Charlie and John C. Reilly playing Eli. The book is about two brothers who are infamous hired guns, on a journey from Oregon to California to kill a man over a mysterious “theft”. Charlie is strong and quiet, the brother with the darker side. Eli seems like a lot of the time he’s just along for the ride, and he has greater aspirations than just being a hired killer. The dialogue is fantastic, the eliminated use of contractions has you subconsciously reading it with a Western drawl. Fantastic.
Their trip through the U.S on their quest is illustrative of the Gold Rush and has great descriptions of the towns crushed by the depression and the cities flourishing with gold. The quality of characters that they meet along the way, major or minor, have a depth that is quite lovely. They are all memorable, even if only in it for a few scenes. The book is humorous yet tragic, beautiful yet simple. It was an easy read and a page turner; definitely a good pace for those who get bored easily. I won’t say that the killers “have hearts of gold” because they definitely do not, but I think it’s more easy to root for them because they don’t. They’re likeable, but you still have a healthy fear of them. DeWitt does a great job of very slowly revealing bits of the brothers past, allowing you to understand just how someone could become the people they are.
I will definitely be reading more Patrick DeWitt, and I like that he’s a Canadian-born writer as well! I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys Cormac McCarthy, the Coen brothers movies, Westerns, or dark humour.