Friday, February 27, 2009

Forgotten Books: PINK VODKA BLUES -- Neal Barrett, Jr.

Neal Barrett wrote some of the funniest, wildest, and most idiosyncratic crime novels of the '90s, of which Pink Vodka Blues was the first. It's a hilarious take on a classic situation. Russell Murray is the editor of a literary magazine in Chicago. He drinks way too much. And he's in big trouble when he wakes up in a hotel room with a beautiful woman just before two men come into the room and kill her. They try to kill Murray, too, but he gets away. Things never slow down after that.

Wanted for murder, Murray winds up in a detox center in Wisconsin. He escapes along with a beautiful redhead named Sherry Lou Wynn. One of his many problems is that he has no memory of where he's been or what he's done. He and Sherry Lou try to stay alive while being pursued around the country by homicidal goons, including the murderous Wacker twins and a blue-haired, tennis-shoe wearing granny with an Uzi. Bones Pinelli wants his briefcase back, by golly, and he doesn't care who dies as long as he gets it.

You've probably guessed that there's a surprise in the briefcase, but I'm not telling. If you've never read this book, you're in for a real treat. And while you're at it, you should check out Dead Dog Blues, Skinny Annie Blues, and Bad Eye Blues. They're all standalones, not series books, and they're guaranteed to be unlike anything else you've read. What are you waiting for?

13 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

One day, you're gonna have one up here I've read!

Bill Crider said...

But then it wouldn't be "forgotten." You really do need to read this one. Trust me.

Todd Mason said...

Barrett is perhaps the most serially underappreciated writer I can think of. He's popped up over five decades, delivered good to remarkable work, and then everyone but a core of aficionados seems to forget about him again.

Bill Crider said...

You're right, Todd. He's written wonderful stuff for longer than most readers of the blog have been alive (he turns 80 this year), and he really should be remembered not just for his crime novels but for his other great books, especially THE HEREAFTER GANG.

George said...

Neal Barrett, Jr. also wrote some wonderful science fiction, too!

Todd Mason said...

And with such work as "Tony Red Dog" (originally in Lansdale and LoBrurtto's western/horror & suspense antho RAZORED SADDLES) he verges on straightforward contemporary mimetic fiction, albeit it's still crime fiction which doesn't flinch. For a while, I thought I'd understood hime to have ghosted some L'Amour franchise or another, and still wouldn't be surprised.

Bill Crider said...

He ghosted an "adult western" series, for sure, plus some other pen name westerns. I have a couple of those, but I can't remember the series at the moment.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Five series, according to Pat Hawk:

Doc & Raider, Lonestar, Agent Brad Spear, American Explorers, and Powell's Army. Lonestar is an adult series; not sure about the others.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks, Cap'n. There are a couple of others, too, I'm pretty sure. Okay, I just checked. I have signed copies of #16 and #22 in the Long Rider series as by "Clay Dawson."

James Reasoner said...

I'd forgotten that Neal wrote a Powell's Army book. It's not an Adult Western series, and neither was the American Explorer series. Those were traditional historical novels, if I remember right. Wasn't Neal's about Daniel Boone?

Bill Crider said...

Yes, Neal did the Boone book. I have that one somewhere around here.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, folks...more stuff to look for!

Anonymous said...

One of the best books I've read in a while. And, as everyone should know by now, _The Hereafter Gang_ is a classic. I guess we could say "cult" classic. I don't like the phrase though, because Barrett's work stands up to the best that's out there. Was it a latent Puritanism in America that got the best of a wide circulation and acclaim? Bad luck? Should we borrow a cliche and say he was ahead of his time? I don't know, but Barrett is a writer's and a reader's writer. Good for those who want to see someone excel at craft, good for those who want to be entertained. You want another great Barrett book? Try: _Piggs_.

- Lawrence