30 Apr

The Terror of Living by Urban Waite

The Terror of Living by Urban Waite

When thirty year old Urban Waite’s debut novel The Terror of Living was published I was pleased to pick it up and read it— despite the publicity chatter and attendant blurbs that mentioned young Urban in the same context as revered American Shaker writer Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meriden; or The Eveng Redness in the West, Sutree, The Child of God, All The Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, The Road ) .Though such invidious, high concept hyperbolic clap trap is nominal for the introduction of a young author, such (not stated but implied)comparisons do set a high standard for a young author as well as as exhibiting the sin of a measurable lack of imagination.The Terror of Living proved to be worthwhile and engaging read. SO much so that I arranged and consummated a conversation with young Waite. Such a pleasant chat,in fact, that I expect to publish it soon —especially in light of the excellence of his new novel The Carrion Birds.

The Carrion Birds by Urban Waite

The Carrion Birds by Urban Waite

Upon its arrival via my stalwart treasure bearing UPS man, I expeditiously concluded the text I was currently reading and eagerly set aside the provisional reading sequence I had had in mind before the arrival of new the Waite opus. You may easily conclude that Carrion Birds did not disappoint(else why would I bother with this notice).

Urban Waite (photo:  Robert Birnbaum)

Urban Waite (photo: Robert Birnbaum)

Urban Waite

As there are currently no media reviews of The Carrion Birds(Wm Morrow) except for Entertainment Weekly’s grade (which if it aspired to be a review would be disqualified for intoning Cormac MacCarthy’s name),which I liberally quote from:

I’ve never been a huge fan of noir novels, which tend to leave me a little cold. Urban Waite’s, The Carrion Birds, a tale of a Vietnam vet–slash–criminal enforcer is as muscular and laconic as anything by Cormac McCarthy, yet it crackles with humanity. The vet, Ray, has only ever been good at one thing — expertly handling the dull black Ruger he keeps hidden in a Ritz cracker box. Now he wants to retire and return to the New Mexico town where his young son lives. But then his last gig, the brazen theft of a rival’s stash, goes sour. As the spiraling violence plays out against the creosote-studded mesas, it’s clear it isn’t just the characters who are doomed: So is the desolate swath of the American Southwest ruled by the drug cartels. A-

Somewhere in the middle of the story. Ray, fleeing drug cartel assasins, leaves his gut-shot partner, Sanchez during a torrential rain storm in the middle of the desert. When he returns to him this is how Waite writes the scene:

Ray reached in through the open door and closed Sanchez’s eyes. The man half his age, a boy anyway Ray looked at him.Boasting about all the things he had done in life, trying to live beyond his years. All that over now, all Sanchez would ever be at an end, and Ray just there in the rain outside the Bronco looking in on him like a man looking in on something long since passed into the annals of time. He took back the Ruger from where it sat on the boy’s lap. The rain falling. The radio playing. The boy long since dead.

Urban Waite is of a group of what I will provisionally label “the New American Shakers”: Bonnie Jo Campbell, Philip Meyer,Daniel Woodrell, Frank Bill, Donald Ray, Mark Spragg, Pollock, Brad Watson and William Gay. Some of these writers also fall into another niche I have have given the working title “New American grit” That writing displays fully what Clyde Edgerton describes:

…you’ll find some needed and necessary cutting to the bone, some ass kicking, drooling, yelling, and shooting up the house and refrigerator, some use of tools from a toolshed, not a toolbar. Some hurt and love.” And incest, meth freaks and purveyors, far flung immigrants, sexual abuse, pandamonium and foxfired mayhem.

Tom Franklin and Brian Carpenter all ready share my sense of rich tributary of literature being tricking out from far flung places in their useful array of writers they identify as standard bearers in their anthology Grit Lit
A Rough South Reader
Edited by Brian Carpenter and Tom Franklin (University of South Carolina)

Grit Lit edited by Brian Carpenter and Tom Franklin

Grit Lit edited by Brian Carpenter and Tom Franklin

Currently reading The Innocence Game By Michael Harvey (Knopf)

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