That is how I described Lou Berney’s writing style to my wife referencing his latest, and allow me to add the hyperbole of masterful, book November Road.
Within November Road, Berney fashions the perfect genre mashup. The tale is a first-rate crime story, that’s also a chase story, joined with a love story, wrapped around the ultimate of conspiracy thrillers: the assassination of JFK. With me so far? Ready for the dramatis personae? Frank Guidry is a clean-up guy for the mafia with a whiskey smile and cleft chin. Charlotte Roy is a mother splitting Nowheresville, OK, away from her deadbeat husband. Paul Barone is the hitman with Anton Chigurh patience after them both. You might think you have an idea on what’s going to happen to next, but brother, your roscoe is an empty piece if attempting to shoot holes into genre clichés. Berney delivers on originality and does it with a hip 60s style that is more than cool cat retro for the 21st century; he delivers a piece of Americana that’s as recognizable as the Marlboro Man, and just as dangerous.
November Road is tight and elegant, a compelling, you-can’t-put-it-down-even-though-it’s-one-AM narrative. Every word is essential. Every thought adds to the characters’ internal struggle. Guidry wants peace. Charlotte, adventure. Barone, acceptance. In a way, Berney provides a dream-come-true to all three by the time the final cover closes.
Berney is an author’s author, November Road is his classroom syllabus, and Novel Writing 101 is in session. The book is a road map that, similar from the escape to Las Vegas presented within, counts off mile markers, allows for rest stops, and relishes those long stretches where you can let it all rip.
Berney’s writing style is so good that at times it fills me with a jealous zeal, yet he is setting an artistic bar tempting, poking you to reach. Above all, Berney’s work is inspiring and I would like nothing more than to meet him for coffee in the French Quarter.
Scratch that. Make it a scotch.