Victor Gischler’s latest novel is ripped from the old noir novels Gold Medal published back in the 1960s. Those books molded a generation of readers and writers that still succumb to tales of crime, criminals, and heroes who get their hands dirty while doing a violent job by their own rules.
As with his earlier novels, Gischler writes about Oklahoma, but Coyote Crossing is so far back in the woods that most people in the state never notice it on the map. Toby Sawyer is a twenty-five year old part-time deputy living the life of a total slacker. He’s also got the requisite blue-collar life for living in small town Oklahoma: a wife that doesn’t really love him, a young son he loves that forces him to grow up faster than he wants to, a trailer, and a souped-up rusting wreck of a car.
I grew up in towns like Coyote Crossing, and Gischler fairly describes the residents and the environment. It’s depressing in some instances, as the author intends, but it also reminds me a lot of how hard you have to work to get out of such places, and why life-long residents live there.
The murder of Luke Jordan, a member of an outlaw clan that’s lived in Coyote Crossing forever, jump starts the novel into overdrive. I liked the fact that Toby reported for duty, wearing his deputy’s badge pinned to a Weezer shirt and that his .38 kept dragging his sweatpants down if he tried to hook it there.
Immediately, things take a turn for the worse while Toby’s out cheating on his wife when he’s supposed to be guarding the body of the murder victim. At the beginning, I really thought about giving up on the book because Toby was such an unsympathetic character and the murder didn’t look all that interesting.