maandag 14 november 2016

"Gone South" by Robert R. McCammon

"It was hell's season and the air smelled of burning children."

If above opening sentence won't make you want to read this novel, I don't know what will...

"To go south" is an expression soldiers used in Vietnam when someone 'lost it' or 'screwed up' in the heat of the battle. Now veteran Dan Lambert has really gone south. He's just been diagnosed with leukemia, lost his job and he's broke. And now the bank wants to repossess his car. Dan loses it and in anger and fear, he accidentally kills a man. Not wanting to spend the last few years of his life in prison, he flees, along with Arden, a young woman he meets on the road and who has some serious problems of her own. Before he knows it, Dan has a price on his head and he's hunted by the police and by the oddest pair of bounty hunters you'll ever meet: the three-armed freak Flint and Pelvis Eisley, an Elvis Presley lookalike, who's brought along his bulldog Mama. Dan and Arden disappear into the swamps, in search of Bright Girl, a mythical faith healer, who might be able to save them both. If she is real, that is...

It's been a long time since I read any of McCammon's books, but this "Gone South" made me feel like coming home. He's got such a smooth writing style, which transports you right into the story and doesn't let you go. He reminds me of Stephen King in that respect. "Gone South" is a very character-driven story, and it's clearly his characters that are McCammon's greatest strength. From Dan and Arden to the two bounty hunters (who provide quite a bit of comic relief) and even to the minor characters that only appear on a handful of pages... they all sparkle. "Gone South" is adventurous, tense, shocking, moving ànd funny, and it has a lot of heart, and the most beautiful finale.

Robert McCammon used to be known as a horror writer, with books like "The Wolf's Hour", "Stinger" and the monumental "Swan Song" as prime examples of his excellent writing. In the early 90's he moved away from the pure horror stories and his books became even better. His "Boy's Life" (1991) sits firmly among my top 5 books of all time. "Gone South" is from 1992 and doesn't quite reach the same heights, but it's one hell of a novel nonetheless.

Author: Robert R. McCammon
Title: Gone South
Publisher: Pocket Books, New York
Year: 1993 (orig. 1992)
Number of Pages: 392 p.
ISBN: 0671743074

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