Galveston by Nic Pizzolato (the writer behind HBO's True Detective) tells the tale of Roy Cady, a low level criminal enforcer and mob hit man who, as an alcoholic in his early 40s, receives news that he has stage IV lung cancer. To add insult to injury, his boss, a New Orleans mobster named Stan, has begun dating Cady's girlfriend, and is now looking to have him knocked off for the inconvenience.
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With dark lyricism and nail-biting prose, Pizzolato's debut novel truly begins when Stan attempts to have Cady killed by staging an ambush in New Orleans. Cady, however, sees through the plot and ends up killing off the hit men off before he can be murdered himself. In the bloody aftermath he discovers a teenage prostitute whose life he feels compelled to save, knowing that if he were to leave her behind she'd be knocked off by Stan the moment she surfaced.
The prostitute, named Rocky, ends up striking a father/son relationship with Cady; one that is disturbed occasionally by the character of her profession. Accustomed to using sex as currency, she attempts to offer herself to Cady in exchange for his taking her Galveston, Texas, where the climax of the book ends up taking place. Cady refuses her advances, and ends up developing what could be described as a paternal relationship with the girl. His cancer diagnosis, meanwhile, lurks in the background of their every conversation.
On their way to Texas, Rocky convinces Cady to stop and pick up a package. This package that ends up being Rocky's 3-year-old sister, Taylor, who she retrieves from her stepfather at gunpoint. Though Cady is angry at having a young child foisted upon his care at first, he softens when Rocky hints at the fact that she was being sexually abused. The three of them then end up at a rundown motel in Galveston, Texas, where they attempt to regroup.
Tragedy strikes when Cady, thinking himself capable of extorting Stan for knowledge he possesses about his criminal operations, calls the mobster and attempts to blackmail him for money. Being that Cady believes himself to be dying of cancer, he does this to ensure a better life for Rocky and Taylor. He attempts to be careful about not revealing his location, but to no avail. The scheme doesn't work out and devolves quickly into a bloodbath, in which Rocky is murdered by Stan's henchmen, and Cady, tied up and beaten within an inch of his life, only survives because his ex-girlfriend frees his bonds in the middle of the night and instructs him to run.
The final pages of the novel involve Cady waiting to die, and then failing to do so. Years pass and he begins to suspect that he was falsely diagnosed in the first place, that he had mild tuberculosis whose symptoms were improperly vetted. He was able to help Taylor in the meantime, however, which provides a certain amount of redemption to counterbalance his largely violent life. His mysterious lung condition does end up worsening, however, until he succumbs to it years later in his apartment, during the onset of a hurricane.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the tone, the depth of language, and the themes of redemption throughout.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is the last scene, in which the character is confronting his own death during a hurricane. It functions thematically in terms of the author's apparent views on the nature of a chaotic universe.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked that Roy Cady was attempting to reason out his mostly violent and discursive life by attempting to save two children from a messy fate.