Red Neck Noir

26 May

No doubt writer Daniel Woodrell had a following before his fine novel, Winter’s Bone was made into an Oscar nominated motion picture (doesn’t that rubric seem archaic?) However, for the unannointed Woodrell’s The Bayou Trilogy (Mulholland Books) has just been reissued in one handy volume containing three of his early novels Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing and The Ones You Do.

Whether saddling Woodrell as the creator of “red neck noir” plays to his advantage is beyond my reckoning. Of course I am not sure being affiliated with red necks has aided anyone (you can read Joe Bageant’s Rainbow Pie, A Redneck memoir to ascertain this) but I am certain of a couple of things. Woodrell can write and Woodrell knows a thing or two. For instance here is a quick take on the 1927 flood

…When the big river calmed and the swamp settled back to level, families that had known no life but the swampy decided that the allure of wild rice ranching and nutria trapping was overshadowed by the grand tales they’d swallowed of city life, a place where sugar-cured hams were free so long as a you bought a potato, pigeons were fat and sleek and tasted like shrimp, cash was doled out twice month and there was an endless supply of liquid cheer and hoochy-koochy bonhomie. The flood pushed these folks from the remote life of the swamp and into the bullshit embrace of the bluff winking city.

Others have commented gushingly on Woodrell’s writing so I will spare you the paean —let me just say that you can pretty much flip open his books to any page and have a very good chance of encountering an outstanding example of his craft and sly sense of humor. As in the following, where John X Shade explains to Lunch Pumphrey what happened to the money that was stolen from him

See, I took the advice of the pigskin experts, Lunch, and I put fifteen K down on them wily ‘Bama boys.Saturday last, they lined up against a team from Florida whose star quarterback and favorite wide receiver had just been carted off to jail on rape charges. That ought be an edge, right? Short of a fuckin’ jailbreak that game had to be a lock for the Crimson Tide. But as you might know, late in the fourth quarter their star running back, the one that beat the burglary rap back in the spring, coughed it up inside the Florida ten-yard line, and that Florida linebacker who’d just come off suspension from that summertime assault beef the papers were full of, jumped on the ball and kept ‘Bama from coverin’ the spread.

Long time fans will be pleased to learn that Woodrell has a collection of stories coming out this fall. New converts have a treasure trove of a back list to root through.

One Response to “Red Neck Noir”


  1. Red Neck Noir & More | Red Weather Review - June 5, 2011

    […] man after our own heart, Robert Birnbaum celebrates novelist Daniel Woodrell’s new The Bayou Trilogy and notes the Ozarks-based creator of […]

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