Bookshots: 'The Castaway Lounge' by Jon Boilard
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
The Castaway Lounge
Who wrote it?
Jon Boilard. The Castaway Lounge is his second book. His first, A River Closely Watched was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. More info at his website.
Plot in a Box:
A lap dance party goes horribly wrong when a local politician takes a shine to an underage girl.
Invent a new title for this book:
Castaway? Desert Island? Geddit?
I’ll get my coat.
Read this if you like:
Dark and dirty noir of the kind Joe Lansdale or Craig Clevenger specialize in.
Meet the book’s lead(s):
Applejack Woods: bareknuckle fighter going slightly punchy.
Suzanne: his girl. A poledancer who may or may not have been abducted by aliens.
Stavros: the owner of the Castaway Lounge.
The Rest: ne’er do wells and misfits of various sizes and shapes.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
Applejack: Thomas Jane
Suzanne: Cody (Magic Mike) Horn, who should be a big star by now but isn’t. Why is that?
Stavros: Chaz Palminteri
The Rest: the regulars at the Bada Bing! stripjoint transporter-beamed to a small mill town in Massachusetts
Setting: would you want to live there?
Said small mill town (I searched for the name but couldn’t find it) is a den of many different types of iniquity. It would make an interesting stop off, but not the kind of place you’d put down roots.
What was your favorite sentence?
No. I can’t choose just one. Here’s a selection:
They eat pickled eggs that have been floating in pissy brine in a big glass jar on the bar. They drink beer that is dark and thick as motor oil. They order shots of Wild Turkey 151. The bartender has a face like an orange rind.
William opens his eyes to see where they are, looks out the window at the sawtooth horizon, watches Japanese beetles die on the windshield. He can hear them popping.
With his thick accent and same-same lines, Suzanne thinks, it’s like this clown learned most of his fucking English from television shows and advertisements, radio jingles.
When I read the blurb for The Castaway Lounge I was all oh flying saucers and titty bars! This is going to be FUN!!
Well it was, but not quite in the way I expected. I anticipated rednecks evading aliens in the wilds of New England – a droll, slapstick kind of funny. The Castaway Lounge is not that kind of funny. This is not Carl Hiaasen a thousand miles further north. This is James Elmore* in a checked shirt, driving a pickup. This is humour as deadpan flat as roadkill. This is the fun you get when a man hires a woodchipper and the exchange goes like this:
Again Tim says. Not knowing exactly what you’re gone to tackle.
Let’s take that one then.
All right. I’ll get the paperwork started. Cash or credit.
This here’ll be cash.
All right then.
What’s the cleanup.
Just hose it down before you bring it back, Tim says.
Anybody ever fall in.
Tim looks up at the man. What, he says. You mean like a person.
Yeah. By accident.
Not that I know. But that would be a mess.
The man coughs.
Want me to show you how to run this thing, Tim says. Safely I mean.
Nah. I’ll just learn her as I go.
I won’t spoil your enjoyment by telling you who ends up in the woodchipper. There are plenty of candidates to choose from. People in The Castaway Lounge do terrible things, sometimes to themselves but more often to other people. Applejack himself is no shining example of moral rectitude: a boozer, a drug taker, often to be found with his pecker in the mouth of women who are not his girlfriend, but he has boundaries and what happens at a private lap dance crosses them.
But once the genie of making-wrongdoers-pay is out of the bottle, it won’t be coaxed back inside. The Castaway Lounge is a story about events spiraling towards inevitable tragedy, but the humour puts the tragedy in context. Life is shit and we’re all going to die, runs the subtext. So let’s wring pleasure from the moment and go out with a smile on our face. This is a message I heartily endorse and it’s also coupled with some of the finest prose I’ve read in a long time. I savoured every page of this book, right up to the dark and deadpan finale.
*Cath hurt her back and wrote this high on pain meds. Neither of us know what author she was trying to reference here. James Ellroy? Elmore Leonard? A hideous amalgamation of both? We may never know. -Ed.
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