Reviews > Published on June 3rd, 2015

Bookshots: 'Haints Stay' by Colin Winnette

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Haints Stay

Who wrote it:

Certain sections reminded me of driving past a horrible accident on the highway, both mesmerizing and painful to look at.

Colin Winnette, short story writer, poet, and author of four other novels.  

Plot in a Box: 

After some men who were supposed to pay them decide to kill them instead, Brooke and Sugar run off and lay low while trying to find the identity of a mysterious boy.

Invent a new title for this book:

Lots of Death

Read this if you like:

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, or The Revenant by Michael Punke.

Meet the book's lead(s):

Professional killers and siblings, Sugar and Brooke. Bird is a young, amnesiac boy found naked between them one morning because that happens occasionally.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Brooke reminded me a fair bit of Christoph Waltz’s character from Django Unchained. In fact, I’m quite certain that this would be a Tarantino movie if it was ever adapted for the big screen. My vote would go to Chandler Riggs for Bird and Malcolm McDowell in his earlier years for Sugar. 

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Nope. Not even a little bit.

What was your favorite sentence?

No matter what you let live you’re going to die and it’s just as likely it will be of a rock falling on your head or getting a bad cough as it is that someone will decide they want you gone. So accept it now and move on.

The Verdict:

One of the most wonderful things about Haints Stay is its black sense of humor. It’s subtle, dry, and slightly perverse, but it’s definitely there. It keeps the otherwise brutal reality of the character’s lives in check, because if there’s one thing the reader learns about Brooke and Sugar quite early on in the book, it’s this: don’t piss them off. These are men who are willing to slice guts and throats to avenge stolen blankets.

And yet, sometimes they seem pretty darn amiable. Sometimes they demonstrates a surprising kind of wisdom regarding the natural order and cycle of life. If contradictions do indeed create rich characters, Haints Stay is excellent proof.

This might not be the most technical criticism, but I also liked the feel of Haints Stay. It reminded me of Johnny Cash songs and cigar smoke and dying of dysentery while playing the Oregon Trail. It’s dark, but it’s not tepid; no one mopes, not even for a second. The dialogue is quick and modern. At a lean 200 pages or so, Winnette doesn’t waste space.

Certain sections reminded me of driving past a horrible accident on the highway, both mesmerizing and painful to look at. You know things aren’t going to turn out very well, but there’s still a sort of magnetism that makes you want to find out more. Who are these two strange men and this stranger boy? What is their deal with human teeth? Why are they taking advice from a skinny man in a suit who lives in the woods? One bizarre and bloody event runs into another.

Brooke and Sugar don’t take things personally. If someone tries to kill them, or burns down the town where they expected to spend their first night in a bed since last month, they shrug it off and move on. They’re like animals— they take a life when they need to survive. There’s nothing malicious about it (they just really wanted those blankets back).

About the author

Leah Dearborn is a Boston-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations from UMass Boston. She started writing for LitReactor in 2013 while paying her way through journalism school and hopping between bookstore jobs (R.I.P. Borders). In the years since, she’s written articles about everything from colonial poisoning plots to city council plans for using owls as pest control. If it’s a little strange, she’s probably interested.

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