by Lou Berney
• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (October 9, 2018)
Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.
Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.
A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.
Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.
For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.
It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.
Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.
Another rule—fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunters are closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.
Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but now Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love.
And it might get them both killed.
What if someone happened to come round that corner right now and caught them skulking? Trouble in this business had a way of spreading, just like a cold or the clap. Guidry knew you could catch it from the wrong handshake, an unlucky glance.
The only poor decision was a decision you allowed someone else to make for you.
Charlotte longed to live in a place where it wasn’t so hard to tell the past from the future.
Her favorite movie, as a child, had been The Wizard of Oz, her favorite moment when Dorothy opened the door of her black-and-white farmhouse and stepped into a strange and wonderful land. Lucky Dorothy. Charlotte dipped her brush again and not for the first time imagined a tornado dropping from the sky and blowing her far away, into a world full of color.
My philosophy is that guilt is an unhealthy habit… It’s what other people try to make you feel so you’ll do what they want. But one life is all we ever get, as far as I know. Why give it away?
It is still unclear what actually transpired and how deeply tangled the web had to have been leading up to that awful November day in Dallas in 1963. This book wasn’t about JFK but proposes a possible, highly likely, and often speculated version of events culminating and occurring after his horrific demise with additional storylines that provided a realistic slice of life for those along the path.
The writing was superb and highly engaging. I was riveted to my Kindle and soaked in each well-chosen word like a sponge. I don’t often read this genre and this was my first exposure to the talents of Lou Berney, who is a gifted scribe. His storylines were dynamic, well-crafted, and ingeniously woven with mind prickling details. Yet I felt the true treasure of his creation was his vibrant and oddly endearing characters. I was thoroughly transported and only wished for more, but I’m greedy like that.
Lou Berney is the author of three previous novels, Gutshot Straight, Whiplash River, and multiple prize-winning The Long and Faraway Gone. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. He lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Find out more about Lou at his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.