Arkansas

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Overview

Arkansas is a biting first novel full of wet T-shirt contests, illicit drugs, and cross-country road trips. There are the days: the dappled grounds, the aimless yardwork, the hours in the booth giving directions to families in SUVs. And then there are the nights: crisscrossing the South with illicit goods, the shifty deals in dingy trailers, the vague orders from a boss they've never met. Before Kyle and Swin can recognize how close to paradise they are in this neglected state park in southern Arkansas, the lazy ...

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Arkansas

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Overview

Arkansas is a biting first novel full of wet T-shirt contests, illicit drugs, and cross-country road trips. There are the days: the dappled grounds, the aimless yardwork, the hours in the booth giving directions to families in SUVs. And then there are the nights: crisscrossing the South with illicit goods, the shifty deals in dingy trailers, the vague orders from a boss they've never met. Before Kyle and Swin can recognize how close to paradise they are in this neglected state park in southern Arkansas, the lazy peace is shattered with a shot. Night blends into day. Dead bodies. Crooked superiors. Suspicious associates. It's on-the-job training, with no time for slow learning, bad judgment, or foul luck.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Brandon introduces his main characters gradually in his quirky debut about a bunch of rootless drifters who form an unstable drug-distribution network in Arkansas: Swin Ruiz, who pulls his first scam before dropping out of college; Kyle Ribb, a shoplifter who stumbles on a job as a courier; and mysterious Ken Hovan (aka "Froggy" or "Frog"), who begins with bootleg tapes but graduates to run the shadowy organization. Tangential characters include a middleman, Pat Bright, who oversees Swin and Ruiz in their nebulous and phony cover jobs in a state park, and a black woman known only as "Her," who passes packets and instructions to the couriers. As Swin and Kyle try to puzzle out how to survive in a crumbling organization, their futile attempts to create some semblance of a normal life evoke only pathos. Not evil as such, these unsympathetic people simply fall into a rut that leads inevitably to violence and death. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Brandon's first novel details the grim misadventures of two young drug runners, Kyle and Swin. With boss Pat Bright, they work for a mysterious man named Frog out of a neglected Arkansas state park, as dead bodies pile up in more and more gruesome ways. Bright, whose past is littered with despicable activities, suffers a ghastly death at the hands of Nick, the nephew of a drug customer. After Kyle kills Nick, they dump his body in a swamp and take charge of Bright's operation. The only positive influence in their lives is Swin's girlfriend, Johnna, a nurse who adds a woman's touch to their dumpy trailer. After Johnna gets pregnant, Swin realizes there is no future in what they've been doing and dreams of something better. But as Kyle says, the world has no intention of offering them worthwhile lives, and the distressing conclusion bears him out. Some readers may have difficulty with the violence-others may not care about the misfits crowding out the story-but this uncomfortable book will find an audience in most large public libraries.
—Donna Bettencourt

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Barnes & Noble Review
Drug-running gangsters are at the heart of Arkansas, John Brandon's debut novel from McSweeney's Books; however, as the title reminds us, the shady business is carried out not in Harlem, Miami, or Vegas but in the rural Southeast. This allows Brandon to indulge in the kind of quirky writing that distinguishes southern grit-lit, and true to its McSweeney's roots, this neo-noir novel is cynical and hip. Kyle Ribb and Swin Ruiz are petty criminals who, for lack of anything better to do, start working for a black-marketeer named Frog in the land of trailer parks and deep-fried breakfasts. The two run packets from an Arkansas state park, where they have phony cover jobs as assistant park rangers. For the first half of the book, Brandon cracks jokes at the rate of 2.3 per page, keeping the pace brisk and tense. The violence, when it comes, surfaces quickly, snaps at us in the space of a paragraph, then recedes just as fast. Occasionally, Brandon reaches a little too hard for Elmore Leonard's machine-gun prose style, as in this character description: "Kyle's new girl friend, Nora, watched movies made in war-torn countries and was fond of the word 'eclectic.' Her jewelry was dangly and her tan lines out of whack." Some of the ?ber-coolness fades when the story starts to take a darker turn in the final pages, but by then Brandon has already made his mark as a promising writer to watch. --David Abrams
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802144362
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/3/2009
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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