Recently read Charlie Williams, Deadfolk (first book in the Mangel trilogy).The title comes up twice in the novel, once in a passing reference to a Church graveyard, and once in a longer paragraph about Royston Blake flopping down drunk before a late newscast about the war in Iraq. Blake says something about seeing all the "deadfolk" on the camera before he goes back for another "tinnie" from the refrigerator. The moment is important though. Forget the chainsaw and the monkey wrench and other ways that people are bent, broken, and dismembered on the Mangel landscape -- where Blake the psychotic doorman is the cause of this violence more often than not. The gory milieu is just a small glint reflecting his outside world. Lets get back to naturalism, no? In the climax we are reminded of the British military when four fighter jets zoom (booming) over the countryside in the early morning. The moment coincides with the exact second when Blake is using the chainsaw on a close friend.

This reminds me that Denis Johnson uses a similar device in his high-brow literary novel The Name of the World. In the last two pages, with hardly any warning, Jonson flushes the academic-malaise plot by having the protagonist quit his university job and leave to become an "embedded" journalist. A fantasy of theory versus praxis? The last page has him swooping in a military helicopter over the Iraqi desert. But then I have to ask Johnson, what is obscured by leaving the personal entanglements at home? If he is deliberately trying to link the soap opera with international warfare, I can't quite see how.

If you are going to read Charlie Williams, try starting with the second book, Fags and Lager. It's tighter than the first, and the narrator's voice is more endearing. The first book gives a hint at things to come when he gives detailed instructions on how to deliver a headbutt. (Wondering now if Zinnadine should read this book.) The second book has a hundred more passages like this--for example when he admonishes us (the reader) that the number one cause of "aggro" is "wreckless eyeballing."

I am about to finish the third book, King of the Road. It's not out in the US yet, but I found a copy from a used bookstore in Key West, where some British tourist was probably passing through.

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