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Galveston

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Overview

On the same day that Roy Cady is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he senses that his boss, a dangerous loan-sharking bar-owner, wants him dead. Roy is alert to the possibility that a routine assignment could be a deathtrap. Yet what the would-be killers do to Roy Cady is not the same as what he does to them, and after a smoking spasm of violence, they are mostly dead and he is mostly alive.

Before Roy makes his getaway, he realizes there are two women in the apartment, one of ...

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Galveston: A Novel

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Overview

On the same day that Roy Cady is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he senses that his boss, a dangerous loan-sharking bar-owner, wants him dead. Roy is alert to the possibility that a routine assignment could be a deathtrap. Yet what the would-be killers do to Roy Cady is not the same as what he does to them, and after a smoking spasm of violence, they are mostly dead and he is mostly alive.

Before Roy makes his getaway, he realizes there are two women in the apartment, one of them still breathing, and he sees something in her frightened, defiant eyes that causes a fateful decision. He takes her with him as he goes on the run from New Orleans to Galveston, Texas—an action as ill-advised as it is inescapable. The girl's name is Rocky, and she is too young, too tough, too sexy—and far too much trouble. Roy, Rocky, and her sister hide in the battered seascape of Galveston's country-western bars and seedy hotels, a world of treacherous drifters, pickup trucks, and ashed-out hopes.

Recalling the moody violence of the early novels of Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson, this powerful, potent, and atmospheric thriller is impossible to put down.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
New Orleans, 1987. Roy Cady, hit man and heavy, has just received a death sentence. His lung X-rays reveal snowy white images, tumors that will kill him, and quickly. Outside the doctor's office, he lights a cigarette, believing there's not much sense in quitting now. His life has been a hard road, filled with loveless sex, violent work, and untrustworthy people. So he'll do what he's always done — which includes showing up at a shakedown that very night.

When the meeting doesn't quite go as planned, Roy departs, taking a witness with him: a young runaway who'd fallen in with the wrong crowd.

On the run from the law, and driven by memories of a woman he can't forget, Roy, accompanied by 18-year-old Rocky, drives west to the beaches of Galveston, Texas.

Galveston is a dark, captivating novel of redemption in the underworld.

A good start in life is often the result of sheer good fortune, and bad luck, for some, is just the way it is: "It's fair like a lottery's fair." Once in a while, though, a hardened criminal is capable of performing a good deed for an innocent bystander, without betraying his character. There's light in the darkness, and in his illuminating debut novel, Pizzolatto reveals a sliver of it.

"An assured debut full of hard truths."
— Chuck Hogan, author of Devils in Exile

Dennis Lehane
…an often incandescent fever dream of low-rent, unbearable beauty…the emotional honesty and power of the novel recall nothing of the scores of approximated noirs we've been subjected to over the past couple of decades, both on the page and on the screen. Instead, Galveston, in its authenticity and fearless humanism, recalls only the finest examples of the form: Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past and David Goodis's Down There, Carl Franklin's One False Move and James Ellroy's Black Dahlia. It's an elegy to the broken and the never-weres, to those who got themselves lost so that someone—anyone—might come looking.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
For a mob enforcer and a teenage whore on the run, there's no escaping the violent past; this first novel follows a story collection (Between Here and the Yellow Sea, 2006). Violence shadowed Roy Cady's childhood in East Texas. His alcoholic father fell to his death; his mother killed herself. She had worked for a bar owner and racketeer, and at 17 Roy started working for him too. Eventually he moved to New Orleans and became the muscle for another racketeer, Stan Ptitko. Now it's 1987, and 40-year-old Roy is reeling from a lung-cancer diagnosis; he's convinced it's terminal. Stan sends him to intimidate a corrupt union official, but it's a setup; Stan wants him dead. Roy survives a furious shootout and flees, taking along blond 18-year-old Rocky, another Texan. She's a runaway who's just started turning tricks. Driving west, she persuades Roy to stop at a secluded cabin and emerges with her baby sister Tiffany. Here the story line frays as we peek into Roy's future; 20 years on, he's a cancer survivor, rendering pointless his earlier end-of-life crisis. And the fast-forward doesn't resolve Pizzolatto's dilemma-whether to write a pulpy crime story or a tale of the spiritual salvation of an ex-con. It seems like the latter as Roy plays the Good Samaritan, checking the girls into a Galveston motel. But then he drives to Dallas for a reunion with an old flame, now happily married. It's a devastating encounter. Shrewd, mature Loraine demolishes Roy's romantic memories, recalling him as an angry, jealous, resentful lover. Back in Galveston, the crime element resurfaces. Roy strangles a motel neighbor, a junkie and potential blackmailer. He then tries some blackmail himself, threatening Stan;his weapon is some incriminating paperwork he'd retrieved from that New Orleans crime scene. The result is catastrophic, for Roy and Rocky both. An unsatisfying split-personality novel redeemed by some terrific dialogue.
Publishers Weekly
Pizzolatto, author of the story collection Between Here and the Yellow Sea, takes a hard-edged look at the stormy life of a compassionate criminal in his impressive first novel. On the same day in 1987 he's diagnosed with lung cancer, Roy Cady flees New Orleans, taking along Raquel “Rocky” Arceneaux, a pretty 18-year-old with a lurid past, whom he rescues from some hoods in the wake of a bloodbath. Rocky persuades him to stop in Orange, Tex., to pick up Tiffany, her three-year-old sister, and by the time they reach refuge in a rundown Galveston motel, 40-year-old Roy finds himself an unlikely father figure even as he struggles with a romantic attraction to Rocky. Pizzolatto's insightful portrayal of the heroic Roy, who takes a beating for trying to help the two girls, is rough and tumble real. As Pizzolatto switches smoothly between past and present, he vividly captures Galveston in all its desperate vulnerability as it faces the approach of Hurricane Ike in September 2008. (June)
From the Publisher
"Galveston is a roman noir to its scuffed boot heels. If there's a guiding principle that whispers in the ear of every reader of great noir, it's this: Things will not end well." —-Dennis Lehane, The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400147564
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/15/2010
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Library - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Nic Pizzolatto is the creator, writer, and executive producer of the HBO crime series True Detective. His fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, The Oxford American, The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Best American Mystery Stories, and other publications. His written work has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and his story collection Between Here and the Yellow Sea was named by Poets & Writer’s Magazine as one of the top five fiction debuts of the year. He lives in Los Angeles. Galveston is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

A doctor took pictures of my lungs. They were full of snow flurries.

When I walked out the office all the people in the waiting room looked grateful they weren't me. Certain things you can see in a person's face.

I'd felt something was wrong because days before I had chased a guy up two flights of stairs and I'd had trouble breathing, like there was a barbell on my chest. I'd been drinking pretty hard for a couple weeks, but I knew it was more than that. I'd gotten so angry about the sudden pain that I broke the man's hand. He spat teeth and complained to Stan that he thought it was excessive.

But that's why they've always given me work. Because I'm excessive.

I told Stan about the chest pains and he sent me to a doctor who was into him for forty large.

Outside the doctor's office now I took the cigarettes from my jacket and started to crush the pack in my hands, but I decided this was no time to quit. I lit one up there on the sidewalk but it didn't taste good and the smoke made me think of cotton fibers weaving through my chest. Buses and cars cruised slow and daylight flashed off their glass and chrome. Behind my sunglasses it was kind of like I was at the bottom of the sea and the vehicles were fish. I imagined a much darker, cooler place, and the fish became shadows.

A horn jolted me awake. I'd started to step off the curb. I flagged down a taxi.

I was thinking about Loraine, a girl I'd once dated, and how one night I'd stayed up talking with her till dawn on a beach in Galveston, from a spot where we could watch the plump white exhaust from oil refineries unroll in the distance like a road into the sun. That would have been ten, eleven years ago. She was always too young for me, I guess.

Even before the X-rays I was already foul with anger because the woman I had thought of as my girlfriend, Carmen, had started sleeping with my boss, Stan Ptitko. I was on my way to meet him at his bar. Not much point today. But you don't stop being who you are just because there's a blizzard of soap chips in your chest.

There's no getting out alive, but you hope to avoid a deadline. I wasn't going to tell Stan or Angelo or Lou about my lungs. I didn't want them hanging out at the bar, talking about me when I wasn't there. Laughing.

Fingerprints smudged the cab's window, and uptown approached outside of it. Some places open themselves for you, but there was nothing gatelike about New Orleans. The city was a sunken anvil that sustained its own atmosphere. The sun flared between buildings and oak trees and I felt the light on my face and then the shade, like a strobe. I thought about Carmen's ass, and the way she smiled at me over her shoulder. I still thought about Carmen, and it didn't make sense because I knew she was a whore and totally heartless. She'd been with Angelo Medeiras when we started up. I guess I took her from him, more or less. Now she was with Stan. Angelo worked for him, too. It cooled my sense of insult to assume she was balling a few guys behind Stan's back.

I was trying to think of who I could tell about my lungs, because I wanted to tell someone. You have to admit that's a bullshit piece of news to get when you've got business to attend.

The bar was called Stan's Place, brick and tin-roofed, with barred windows and a dented metal door.

Lou Theriot, Jay Meires, and a couple people I didn't know sat inside, old guys. The bartender's name was George. His left ear was packed with white gauze. I asked him where Stan was and he nodded toward a set of stairs running up the wall to the office. The door was closed, so I sat on a stool and ordered a beer. Then I remembered that I was dying and changed the order to a Johnnie Walker Blue. Lou and Jay were talking about a problem with one of the bookmaking franchises. I could tell because I'd run book for a few years in my early twenties and knew the language. They stopped talking and looked up at me because I was listening. I didn't smile or anything and they went back to talking, but much softer now, with their heads turned down so I couldn't hear. They never cared much for me. They knew Carmen as a waitress here, before she hooked up with Stan, and I think they had some ill will toward me on her behalf.

They also didn't like me because I never really fit in around this crew. Stan inherited me from his former boss, Sam Gino, who inherited me from Harper Robicheaux, and it's mainly my fault that I wasn't ever fully accepted by these guys. They kept dago ideas about fashion - tracksuits or shirts with French cuffs, slicked hair - but I wear jeans and black T-shirts with a jacket and cowboy boots, like I always have, and I keep the back of my hair long and I won't shave my beard. My name's Roy Cady, but Gino started everyone calling me Big Country, and they still do, without affection. I'm from East Texas, the Golden Triangle, and these boys have always thought of me as trash, which is fine because they're also scared of me.

It's not like I had any desire to climb the corporational ladder.

I'd always gotten along fine with Angelo, though. Before the stuff with Carmen.

The office door opened then and Carmen stepped out, flattening her skirt and teasing her hair a bit, and right away she saw me and kind of froze. But Stan came out behind her and she walked down the stairs with him following, tucking his shirt at the back. Their footsteps made the stairs groan and Carmen lit a cigarette before she reached the bottom. She took it to the other end of the bar and ordered a greyhound.

I thought of a smart-ass remark to make to her, but I had to keep it to myself.

The main thing I was angry about was that she'd ruined my solitude. I'd been on my own for a long time.

I mean, I got laid when I needed it, but I was alone.

Now it was like alone didn't quite cut it.

Stan nodded to Lou and Jay, and he came to me and said that Angelo and I were going to do a job that night. It took effort for me to appear copacetic with this partnering. Stan had this sloped Polack brow like a cliff and it hung shadows over his tiny eyes.

He gave me a slip of paper and said, "Jefferson Heights. You're visiting Frank Sienkiewicz."

I remembered that name, a president or former president or attorney for the dockworkers' local.

The stevedores were supposedly coming under federal scrutiny, I think, rumored to be a probe target. They moved things for Stan's partners, and the payoffs kept their union alive, but that's really all I knew about it.

Stan said, "Nobody should get hurt bad. I don't want that now." He stood behind my stool, laid a hand on my shoulder. I could never read those small eyes stamped under the outcrop of his brow, but a secret to his success had to be the total lack of mercy in his face?the wide Slavic cheekbones over the tight, lipless mouth of a Cossack raider. If the Soviets really had people who'd run a red-hot coat hanger up inside the shaft of your cock, they were people like Stanislaw Ptitko. He said, "I need the guy to understand the right thing. He needs to play for the team. That's all."

"I need Angelo for that?"

"Take him anyway. Because I'm careful." He also told me that I needed to make a collection in Gretna before meeting Angelo. "So keep on schedule," he added, nodding to the Johnnie Walker in my hand.

Stan downed a shot of Stoli, slid the glass back to the bartender. The gauze around George's ear had a yellow stain at its center. Stan didn't really look at me as he straightened his tie and said, "No gats."

"What?"

"Remember that trucker last year? I don't want anybody getting shot because of someone's bullshit nerves. So I'm telling you and I'm telling Angelo: leave the guns. Don't let me find out you went in packing."

"The guy gonna be there?"

"He will. I'm sending him a care package."

He walked off and paused beside Carmen, kissed her hard and kneaded her tit once, and a barbaric intention crawled up in my mind. Then he walked out the back door and Carmen just looked bored, smoking. I thought about what Stan had said about not bringing guns.

Which struck me as a strange thing to say.

Carmen scowled at me from the other end of the bar, and Lou and Jay saw it and started talking to her, telling her how relaxed Stan seemed when he was with her. That was actually true, I realized, and it all started to tweak a bit and make places deep in the heart of me twinge with shame. I downed the JW and ordered another.

Carmen had light brown hair, long and bundled behind her head, and her pretty face had rough skin now and powder could build up in those little cracks and lines you couldn't see unless you were close to her. She reminded me of the empty glass of a swallowed cocktail, and at the heart of the empty glass was a smashed lime rind on ice.

I think the reason men liked her was because she gave off high levels of carnality. You looked at her and just knew?this one's up for anything. It's sexy, but you can't really stand it.

I knew about things she'd done, things Angelo didn't know about. Multiple-partner stuff. And one time she offered to bring an extra girl in for me, spice things up.

Not exactly my thing. At the time I had a sense of romance I now see was inappropriate.

I think she thrived on betrayal more than sex. Like she had a score to settle.

She claimed I hit her on one occasion, but I didn't believe it. She was a bit of an actress, and drama held more priority for her than the truth.

Though I admit my memory of the night in question is not quite whole.

In the bar then Lou said something to her like, "It's clear you know how to keep a man happy."

Carmen said, "Nobody can say I don't try."

They all laughed and the .380 at the small of my back felt like it was growing hot. It wouldn't have brought me any satisfaction. I was just angry, and I didn't want to die the way the doctor implied I would.

I dropped some bills on the bar and walked out. A couple nights back I'd been fried on tequila and left my truck here, and it was still intact, a big '84 F-150. This was in 1987, and I liked the models better then: squared and stocky, heavy machinery, not toys. I drove across the Pontchartrain Expressway and left the radio off and my thoughts hummed like a bee's wings.

Gretna. On Franklin Street I wondered when the last time I did things would be. Every beat of sunlight that struck the windshield as the trees passed kind of demanded that I appreciate it, but I can't say that I did. I tried to conceive of not existing, but I didn't have the imagination for it.

I felt that same choking and hopeless sense as when I was twelve, thirteen, staring down the long fields of cotton. August mornings with the burlap sack slung over my shoulder, and Mr. Beidle on his horse with the coach's whistle, directing the kids from the group home. The miserable idea of endlessness in the task. That feeling like You Cannot Win. After a week of picking I first noticed the calluses on my hands when I dropped a fork and realized I couldn't feel anything with my fingertips. I looked at the hard pads on my fingers now, wrapping the steering wheel, and a wave of anger clenched them. A feeling like I'd been cheated. Then I thought of Mary-Anne, my mother. She was weak, a clever woman who willed herself stupid. But there was no need to think on her today.

I found the address Stan had given me, a sinkhole apartment building next to a line of warehouses: pale, graffitied brick, high weeds and crabgrass blending into the vacant lot next door. Clunkers in the parking lot, that air of oil and hot garbage that circles New Orleans.

Number 12. Second floor. Ned Skinner.

I strolled past his window once and glanced inside. It was dark and I didn't register any movement. I slipped a hand in the pocket where I stored my knuckle-dusters and kept on walking across the balcony. I went downstairs, around back, and checked his outside windows. A breeze wavered the high weeds.

I walked back up and knocked on his door. The whole building had a deserted vibe; blinds stayed closed, no noise from TVs or radios. So I waited and looked around and then used my switchblade on the frame around the lock. Cheap wood, splintered easy.

I slipped in and shut the door. A small place with a couple pieces of furniture and trash everywhere, newspapers and a ton of old racing forms, fast-food wrappers, a dial television with a cracked screen. Empty bottles of well-brand vodka stood along the counter. I always did hate a slob.

It smelled bad in there, like sweat and stale breath and human vinegar. Mildew and dirt singed the bathroom, stiff clothes on the tiles. The bedroom had just a mattress on the floor and thin, yellowed sheets in a tangle. Crumbled racing forms scattered over the carpet like cut flowers.

On the floor by the bed a framed picture lay on its back. I picked it up: a brown-haired woman with a little boy, both cute enough, smiling and bright-eyed. It looked several years old. You could tell by the woman's hairstyle and fashion, and the paper was of thicker stock than you usually saw nowadays, a leathery texture, and it seemed the faces had faded some over time. I carried it into the living room and threw a pizza box off a chair and sat. I looked down at the picture and then at the apartment. I'd lived in places like this.

I studied the smiles in the picture.

Something passed close to me then, a feeling or piece of knowledge, but I couldn't quite get it. A sense of something I'd once known or felt, a memory that wouldn't come into the light. I kept reaching, but I couldn't grasp the thing.

It felt near, though.

The light from the blinds poured across me in old-fashioned prison stripes. I waited for a long time in that chair, but the man never showed. And given what happened later, I'd come to view the time spent waiting for him as a demarcation in each of our lives, his and mine.

A moment when things could have gone one way, before they went another.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 43 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 43 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    terrific redemption tale

    In 1987 forty year old tough guy mob enforcer Roy "Big Country" Cady had always believed nothing could harm him. He grew up in Texas only to watch his father fall to his death and his mother commit suicide. He took a job with his late dad's boss as a local enforcer and moved on to New Orleans. Now he learns differently as he finds out he has lung cancer.

    Before he can cope, Roy's boss mobster Stan Ptitko assigns him a simple task; however Big Country senses something is not right and cautiously assumes he is being set up for a hit. His hunch proves right and so does his vigilance. Roy took out the hitmen the old fashion way by killing them while rescuing teenage whore Raquel "Rocky" Arceneaux. He takes her with him as he leaves New Orleans for his hometown Galveston. On the way Rocky convinces Roy to pick up her three years old sister Tiffany in remote Orange. He takes the two girls to Galveston where he puts them up in a motel while he becomes a one man crime wave who plans to finish by extorting money from his former fuming employer.

    This is a terrific redemption tale as Roy the hard boiled killer tries to become the savior of two young females. The story line is filled with vivid gory action but character driven by mostly Roy, but to a lesser degree Rocky who the hitman hopes to save so that he has some solace before he dies. Although the segue involving two decades into the future take away from a powerful end of life effort to do the right thing one time in one's life, fans will relish the visit to Galveston.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2011

    Contemporary Gulf Coast noir

    Galveston is a very good read, it precisely captures the forlorn nature of the Texas gulf coast while introducing you to characters you feel like you have seen in life but never known. Roy "Big Country" Cady and Rocky are those people. The author peels back layers of their past and you wonder if you will get to know them well enough before henchman and hurricanes get there first. The character development with Roy made me think of that old adage, "everybody's got a story..."

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    Roy Cady draws you into his skewed world

    Roy Cady is a murderous criminal who has a heart. You want to spend an evening or two drinking with him. Despite the horrible dramas of his physical disease and graphic details of personal violence, you want to be there with him, to dress his wounds and take care of him. Any other such felon would be completely rash and uncaring, but Roy keeps coming back to care for an eighteen-year-old nymph, fighting over the expected urges to have easy sex with her and grappling with the long-term implications of such a lie. He knows he's going to die of cancer, so his judgment is skewed by the immediacy of his predicament: throw caution to the wind, or act responsibly? He goes through hell on earth, simply because he believes that there is no hell in the next world, and his life is arguably worthless. But he goes on, and on, for a borrowed twenty years that is the framework of the novel. The author volleys us back and forth effectively between the two eras, letting us know just enough about each to keep us intrigued. Excruciating descriptions of physical suffering are interspersed with exquisite descriptions of the back roads of the unfolding Texas landscape. I can't stop thinking about Roy and "Rocky."

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    I think this editorial review (which grabbed me) speaks of my op

    I think this editorial review (which grabbed me) speaks of my opinion.
    "Galveston is a roman noir to its scuffed boot heels. If there's a guiding principle that whispers in the ear of every reader of great noir, it's this: Things will not end well." —-Dennis Lehane, The New York Times

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully written. 

    Beautifully written. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2011

    Dark, interesting, slow-paced, fantastic.

    If you like your protagonists deeply flawed yet still sympathetic, read this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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