The wide expanses of the American heartlands have always made a great backdrop for resonant, thoughtful fiction, and this week we have two very different novels that use it as a framework to look at the realities of the flawed American dream.
First up is November Roadby Lou Berney, the author’s fourth novel, the cover of which comes adorned with praise from the likes of Stephen King and Ian Rankin.
November Road is Berney’s first foray into historical fiction, using the assassination of John F Kennedy as the starting point for a classic noir story. JFK’s death has of course been used a lot by novelists over the years as a way to pick apart the American psyche, but Berney’s take is unusual in that the murder is only tangential to his main action.
Berney establishes early on in his telling that New Orleans boss Carlo Marcello was responsible for hiring JFK’s killer. The story from there is told in three separate narratives that twist around each other and eventually intersect in spectacular fashion.
The first is Frank Guidry, a loyal fixer for Marcello who finds himself getting put in the frame for something he didn’t do. Making a break for it, he flees to Las Vegas as incognito as possible.
The thriller elements of November Road are expertly handled,
At the same time we get the story of Charlotte Roy, a frustrated housewife and mother of two young children in Oklahoma, who makes a spontaneous decision one day to leave her abusive and no-good husband and take the kids to a relative in California.