Seems to the Nerd like Frank Bill’s Donnybrook has been raved about in the online crime circles for fucking ever. Seems everybody I know through twitter or linkedin (just kidding – motherfuck a linkedin) read this beast sometime back in the late seventies or something and talks about it in tones I’d liken to those of that indie rock douche you know who saw Arcade Fire when they opened for The Unicorns (now the ever-rad band Islands) back in the day. So with all those expectations just fucking fermenting over the years (years!) since I’d first heard about Bill’s debut novel, how did Donnybrook stack up for the Nerd after he finally got the fucker in his dry, arthritic hands?
Well, dear reader, I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint in the fucking slightest.
Donnybrook is the story of a group of down-and-out motherfuckers from Southern Indiana and Kentucky trying to make it to the annual Donnybrook of the title in the backwoods of Indiana, a massive weekend brawl of dozens of fighters duking it out until there’s one man standing, said man receiving a fat wad of cash for his efforts. There’s Jarhead, a family man fallen on hard times for who the Donnybrook is his last chance at providing for the wife and kids. There’s Chainsaw Angus, a ruthless meth cook and dealer whose past Donnybrook success looms large. And then there’s Chainsaw’s sister Liz, a sexy femme fatale who wants Chainsaw’s meth and money all to herself. Over the week that the novel encompasses we watch these three and many more unsavory types – including a cop out for revenge, a Chinese restaurant owner and rural crime lord, and said crime lord’s martial arts master hitman – cross each other’s pass and fuck one another up something fierce.
Bill’s prose is by turns scuzzily poetic and razor tight and his chapters short and lean, hopping around from one character’s out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-fire predicament to the next, rarely letting the reader breathe. Violence is introduced often and rendered gloriously, and the world of Donnybrook is about as pleasant as a meth head’s toilet. In other words, this shit is fucking catnip for me and my basement crazy noir junkie brethren. That said, don’t be surprised if that catnip makes you start to pick imaginary bugs from under your skin and is delivered to your mouth via a swinging sock full of quarters. For the sake of you and me both, here’s hoping Bill’s next kick-ass novel doesn’t come around after so much painful, blue-balls-level waiting, dear reader.