Saturday, July 11, 2009

Catching Up #37: King of the Road by Charlie Williams

Been waiting on this one for a good goddamn while - no joke, it's a tough book to get in the States these days - but the good folks at Uncle Edgar's in Minneapolis finally snagged a copy for me. Now I am officially all caught up with Charlie Williams's Mangel trilogy, and dear God was it worth the wait. This book is hands-down the best of the fucking bunch, and book three being the best is rarely ever the case.

Just look at, well, almost every trilogy ever - The Godfather, The Matrix, Star Wars, Hank Thompson, Spiderman, Evil Dead, Indiana Jones (Crystal Skull never happened), Lord of the Rings (would it have killed Tolkien to kill a couple of fucking characters?) - it's a fucking huge rarity is what I'm getting at here, dear reader. King of the Road is incredibly dark, heart-breakingly sad, thrillingly violent, and fucking hilarious as all hell. It's a fucking shame that that's the end of our man Blake, the toughest bloke in Mangel (fingers-tightly-fucking-crossed Williams will revisit Blakey on a later date).

King of the Road kicks off with Royston Blake being released from the funny farm after a few years stay. He's all set to have a few pints, smoke a few cigs, be a good dad to Sal's and his kid, and take up his old post as doorman for Hopper's, the most respected pub in all Mangel. But Mangel has changed something fierce while he was away. There's a big gleaming shopping mall erected where Hopper's once stood, and Blake's doctor has gotten him a job as the "doorman" (read: mall security guard) at the behemoth, a job that makes all kinds of different Mangel citizens get ideas for our Blake.

Struggling "old guard" merchants like Nathan the Barman and Doug the Shopkeeper want Blake to bring down the mall from the inside. His old pal Don wants him to play a central role in heisting the mall. And the mall's owner Mr. Porter wants to use Blake as an enforcer, a thug whose purpose is to beat those that mean to destroy Mr. Porter's empire. But Blake being Blake, none of these well-laid plans are going to go down smoothly...

You see, the genius of Royston Blake is that he's so hilariously retarded that he never fully understands what he's into. Since he's our narrator, Williams allows Blake to express just enough information that the reader fully understands the implications of what he's involved in, but Blake almost never does. It allows for a lot of consistent laughs throughout the story, and one shockingly sad "revelation" at its end.

And that is a major part of why this book worked for me so fucking well. Deadfolk was a nasty piece of work that had plenty of solid crime shit going on, while I thought that Fags and Lager - though hilarious - was sometimes too wacky and ridiculous to fully work as a noir novel. King of the Road manages to be funnier than both novels and also more dark and tragic too somehow. It's the best of both books, no fucking joke!

In case you're not getting this, dear reader, I'm saying that you should pick up this fucking book toot-fucking-sweet. Damn it, read the whole trilogy. You'll thank me. Least you will if you're a sick fucker who likes shocks, laughs, and poop-mouth in your reading material (which is kind of a pre-requisite for this site, you know). And though I've expressed it many times over, let me say I can't fucking wait for Williams' return to novelifying with Stairway to Hell this August. Three long years is two years too fucking many.

1 comment:

Rivs said...

Good call mate - The Mangel trilogy is fucking excellent!