Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 15, 2013

THE SPEED QUEEN by Stewart O'Nan

I believe that Stewart O'Nan can write any genre of novel, from a POV from either sex, set in any time period, and make it work. THE SPEED QUEEN, written in 1997 was his brilliant attempt at writing noir. The subject of a pre-publication controversy, O'Nan's original title was Dear Stephen King, but Doubleday changed the title under pressure from King's lawyers. (Later King wrote O'Nan a letter telling him how much he's enjoyed the book).

The book is framed as a series of questions answered into a tape player by murderer, Marjorie Standiford, nicknamed the Speed Queen because of her love of the drug and love of fast cars. Marjorie looks back at her life on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, her boyfriend, a car freak named Lamont, how she got pregnant, goes to car shows and learns to mainline speed. A story every mother yearns to read about their child.

Sent to jail for drug possession,  she is seduced by another inmate. When the two are paroled, they move in with Lamont, Marjorie finds out that Natalie is sleeping with Lamont, just as a $9000 drug buy turns ugly. Under the influence, the three hit the open road, murder an elderly couple and botch a gory, Charles Manson-like robbery at a Sonic before being chased down by the police. There is the possibility for a stay of execution as Marjorie tells her story. She maintains her innocence in the murders until the end.

The thing that sells this rough, raucous and sad story is the voice O'Nan captures so well. The entire story moves as if on speed. Apparently a play has been made of it. Can't imagine why no movie.

Sergio Angelini, THE GREEN PLAID PANTS, Margaret Scherf
Les Blatt, THE NIGHTINGALE GALLERY, Paul Dougherty
Brian Busby, THE SIN SNIPER, Hugh Garner
Bill Crider, ME, HOOD, Mickey Spillane
Martin Edwards, MURDER AT CAMBRIDGE, Q. Patrick 
Curt Evans, MURDER ON TOUR, Todd Downing
Ed Gorman, PLUNDER SQUAD, Richard Stark
Randy Johnson, BLONDE LIGHTNING, Terrill Lee Lankford
George Kelley, MAGIC HIGHWAY, Jack Vance
Rob Kitchin, THIRTEEN HOURS, Deon Myer
B.V. Lawson, MURDER AT THE FOUL LINE, edited by Otto Penzler
Evan Lewis, UNDER THE ANDES, Rex Stout
Steve Lewis, MISSING FROM HOME, Peter N. Walker
Todd Mason. 7 Quick Reviews: Harlan Ellison, Gary Jennings, R. A. Lafferty, John D. MacDonald, Evan Hunter, Avram Davidson, Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum, et al.
Steve Nester, TAPPING THE SOURCE, Ken Nunn
J.F. Norris, THE MAN WHO MISSED THE WAR, Dennis Wheatley
Juri Nummelin, THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, Oscar Wilde
James Reasoner, PLAGUE OF THE GOLDEN DEATH, Brant House
Richard Robinson THE COBRA, THE KING OF DETECTIVES, Richard B. Sale.
Gerard Saylor, ICE BREAKER, John Gardner
Ron Scheer, UNTAMED, Max Brand
and THE WEST WIND, Cyrus Townsend Brady
Michael Slind, MURDER AT HAZELMOOR, Agatha Christie
Kerrie Smith, THE WILL AND THE DEED, Ellis Peters writing as Edith Pargeter
Kevin Tipple, Patrick Ohl, BROKEN FACE MURDERS, Darwin and Hildegarde Teilhet


Ron Scheer said...

Great review, Patti. Wasn't Speed Queen also the name of some household appliance?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think a washing machine.

Gerard said...

SPEED QUEEN does sound like a good one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like a great book. I really will look into this one. Wish I'd waited until today to put in my latest book order.

Anonymous said...

Always such a nice variety of books here! And an excellent review of Speed Queen, too.