Having really enjoyed the first season of True Detective on HBO, the Nerd decided to look into the previous work of the show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto. Turned out dude had written a book so, you know, I did it up. And here’s the review (such an artful way to get into this piece!).
Galveston is about Roy Cady, a New Orleans mob strong arm who is betrayed by his boss on the very day he’s been diagnosed with lung cancer. After defeating the thugs sent to kill him he hits the road with a teenaged hooker who was at the site of the botched hit, the two of them eventually ending up in motel in Galveston, Texas along with the hooker’s baby sister. While in town Cady looks back on his rough life and forward to his short future while awaiting his boss’ second hit attempt.
Fans of True Detective will recognize numerous similarities between Galveston and that show’s first season. The setting of Lousiana/East Texas is the same, with lots of attention paid to the motels, truck stops and shit kicker bars that can be found there. When the violence comes around it is intense and gloriously descriptive, much like the brutally rendered blown apart heads and vicious beatings in True Detective. There is also some flashback/structural fuckery like on the show, with the story going back and forth occasionally from 1988 to twenty years later. It’s also a bleak and despairing story that ends on a sweet, damn near sentimental note (though the end of Galveston annoyed me far less than that of TD, admittedly). And, of course, there’s lots of booze, cigarettes and even some little soldiers made of tall boy cans (this time out they’re constructed from Miller tins and not my beloved Lone Star).
But the main thing that bridges the two works for the Nerd is Pizzolatto’s interest in character over the beats and tropes of the type of story he is telling. Where the actual mystery and investigation of the serial murders in True Detective were the show’s least successful or interesting aspects, same goes for the more obvious genre moments of Galveston. Pizzolatto would rather get at the tortured souls of his heroes than deal with making sure there’s a battalion of guys coming after Cady every other chapter in Galveston or whether everything lines up in the conspiracy perfectly at the end of True Detective. And if you go in knowing that this is a dark, thoughtful study of a troubled and violent man more than it is a twist-a-minute, murder-per-chapter crime thriller, your expectations will be greatly fucking exceeded.
Because there are some truly show-stopping moments of pain and beauty in Galveston, dear reader, like the part where an ex-lover Cady has pined over for years meets with him and gives us the far less booze-colored version of those days. Or when Cady picks up a budding lot lizard in Amarillo while on a bender, his run of description of the town and the situation some of the most excitingly vivid prose I’ve read in a long while. So if you’re up for those types of more (excuse my word choice) “literary” pleasures mixed with some occasionally nasty-as-fuck violence, give Galveston a try toot-sweet.