Watch Me Go

Watch Me Go

by Mark Wisniewski

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Overview

Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

“A fabulous noir.”—Daniel Woodrell

“Thoughtful, complex and compassionate.”—Dan Chaon

“Mark Wisniewski is a damn good writer.”—Ben Fountain

Winter’s Bone meets The Wire in this edgy, soulful meditation on the meaning of love, the injustices of hate, and the power of hope.

Douglas “Deesh” Sharp has managed to stay out of trouble living in the Bronx, paying his rent by hauling junk for cash. But on the morning Deesh and two pals head upstate to dispose of a sealed oil drum whose contents smell and weigh enough to contain a human corpse, he becomes mixed up in a serious crime. When his plans for escape spiral terribly out of control, Deesh quickly finds himself a victim of betrayal—and the prime suspect in the murders of three white men. 

 

When Jan, a young jockey from the gritty underworld of the Finger Lakes racetrack breaks her silence about gambling and organized crime, Deesh learns how the story of her past might, against all odds, free him from a life behind bars.

Interweaving Deesh’s and Jan’s gripping narratives, Watch Me Go is a wonderfully insightful work that examines how we love, leave, lose, redeem, and strive for justice. At once compulsively readable, thought-provoking, and complex, it is a suspenseful, compassionate meditation on the power of love and the injustices of hate.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399172120
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/22/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Mark Wisniewski’s fiction has been published in The Best American Short Stories, The Southern Review, Antioch Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. His stories have won a Pushcart Prize and a Tobias Wolff Award, and numerous fellowships in fiction. He lives with his wife on a lake in upstate New York.

Read an Excerpt

"To answer your question,” Bark says to me, “I’m going to my

place so we can stop being scared.”

“And you really think a gun’ll help us with that?” James says.

“I do,” Bark says. “And yes, Jimmy, that is just my opinion. But

we are talking about a ride in my truck, so anytime you’d rather

walk, I’ll be glad to pull over.”

“No need,” James says as he reaches past me to try to open the

passenger-side door—and I shove him back down, ticked off all the

more since here I am again, playing peacekeeper.

Then Bark, too, gets all fatherly:

“Okay, James. My gun will be in that glove box in front of you,

so you decide. Mississippi, or your apartment. Choose your apartment

and I will take you there. Not all the way to your building,

mind you, since your building will probably have officers in front of

“its entrance, but I will drop you within, say, four blocks of those

officers. It’s just that you need to let me know what you want now,

so I can plan the best route through this traffic.”

Then we all three sit as still as we had when we’d been screamed

at by our hoops coach. It’s like we’ve scrapped and lucked our way

this far, but now we’re all benched, losing our biggest game. Then

it hits me that what Bark told James goes for me, too—head

for Mississippi with an unregistered gun, or go home to wait for cops

to knock.

“Then I’m out,” James says. “But don’t take me to my place,

Bark.”

“Then where?” Bark says.

“My grandma’s.”

Traffic lets us move maybe three or four feet.

“In Queens,” James adds.

I roll down my window and look ahead and behind: cars as far

as I can see.

“Fine,” Bark says.

“You take me there?” James asks.

“I said I’d drop you.”

And again, we all simply sit. This, I realize, might be our last

conversation ever, and as scared as I am about the drum and the

gun, my throat catches because of plain old sentiment.

Bark clears his throat. “Obviously the story we all stick with is

that, today, none of us went upstate.”

“Agree with you there,” James says.

“Today was all about the horses,” Bark says, “for all three of us.”

“Right,” I say, and now here’s Bark, asking where James’s grandma

lives, up near Ditmars or down toward Queensboro Plaza, and here’s

James, telling Bark she’s just off Steinway on about Thirty-

fourth Ave, and now here they go, talking restaurants and clubs in Astoria

like Bark’s a cabbie James just met. There’s no mention of the trifecta

cash, not once. But I know James has it in mind because I

have it in mind.

Bark picks at an ingrown hair on his neck. James closes his eyes.

I’m still deciding if I’ll travel with Bark. My gut says play the same

card James did—insist we go minus the gun—but I can’t read Bark

for whether, with one friend gone, he’ll value his last more or prefer

flying solo.

For a moment I want to say, James, you are bailing. Then we are

whizzing ahead, and I can’t remember having rolled out of traffic,

which confirms that, for a stretch there, I lost myself in thought.

Stress, I think. Or are you just aging? Or were you thinking about

Madalynn?

Then there we are, pulling over on a street full of houses just off

Steinway, and James’s posture straightens as he points at an upstairs

duplex with white trellises without vines. Bark brakes hard

and James and I get out, and there, on that sidewalk, I wonder how

it feels to know one of your grandmothers, and I figure Bark wonders

this, too.

But Bark’s counting the trifecta cash.

“Maybe you’ll need it more than I will?” James says, though he’s

lingering right there, near Bark’s open passenger door.

Bark hands James a folded share. He snaps off another few bills

and gives those.

“For Grandmama,” he says.

James nods, pockets his share, heads for the porch. Halfway up

the stairs, he stops and turns and nods at Bark, then at me.

“Cool,” he says.

“Right,” I say, but he’s already turned to ring his grandma’s

doorbell, so I get back in the truck, closing the door as we accelerate

off.

Bark shakes his head and says, “Pussy.”

He means James, though what I also hear is that Bark is not at

all up for another request to travel unarmed.

Then he says, “You just know he’ll tell Granny about that

drum.”

“Count on it,” I say.

“The way I figure things? She takes those extra twenties and he

tells her they’re from me? Best investment I ever made.”

And again there is more than words to Bark’s words. There’s

the point that he still holds my share of our money, that money still

talks, that I’d be smart to stay on the good side of power. And already

I miss James, because James’s verbal flow always gave logic a

chance to be said out loud and considered. With Bark and Bark

only, everything’s glances and cash and manhood. There’ll be

fewer quibbles without James, but there’ll be fewer laughs.

Still, as Bark and I and his truck roll out of Queens, instinct

from somewhere, maybe the father I never saw, tells me that to

abandon Bark now would be a loser’s move. After all, Bark’s been

my man since high school. He’s found me work when I’ve needed

cash. His time spent with Madalynn, platonic or not, proves we’re

cut from the same cloth.

On the Triboro, all lanes become jammed. Silence up here

grows thorns. There’s no arguing about the truth that the Belmont

win, by assuring we’d travel in this rush hour, cost us time.

Bark clicks on the radio. A truck jackknifed, the broadcaster

says, and someone in it died. No one will budge until everything’s

chalked and photographed. I tell myself this means fewer cops

looking for us. But then comes top-of-the-hour news about a

murder in Putnam County.

“No way,” I say out loud.

Bark’s considered answer is, “You think?”

I don’t dare say a word, sure my voice would crack. If James

were here now, we’d be lectured. But now there’s no doubt about

one thing. Bark is headed for his gun.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Watch Me Go:

“Wisniewski artfully brings to life the hardscrabble and crooked lives surrounding the Finger Lakes horse racing track. He shows us how racial prejudice still runs rampant in American life and how justice is sometimes meted out in the most circumstantial of ways. But perhaps most important, he brings to light the countless ways that love—romantic and familial—is as complicated as it is essential…Wisniewski is a sure and smart writer, and his philosophy never gets in the way of his story, which is suspenseful and original and wholly unpredictable.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[C]hannels the best of [Wisniewski’s] profluent short fiction… Watch Me Go feels particularly apt to our national present, when police procedure is under constant scrutiny…Wisniewski’s prose burns forward, but he knows when to slow the pace.” —The Millions

“Outstanding…Wisniewski deftly alternates perspectives and narrative threads… just what fans of literate and nuanced daylight noir will relish.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"...wonderfully raw and gritty..." —Booklist

"Pure, muscular storytelling … irresistible." —Salman Rushdie, #1 New York Times–bestselling author
 
“Mark Wisniewski is a damn good writer.” —Ben Fountain, New York Times–bestselling author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

“With Watch Me Go, Mark Wisniewski has constructed a fabulous noir that touches on the third-rail of American life and the inside rail at the track. His voice is down-to-earth and sharp, delivering swift, salty pages concerning murder and jails, justice and damaged souls.” —Daniel Woodrell, PEN award winner and Edgar nominated author of Winter’s Bone
 
“A smart, richly observed noir thriller, located somewhere on the border between Richard Price and Daniel Woodrell. It’s full of double-crosses and secrets, yes, but Watch Me Go is also thoughtful, complex and compassionate in its depiction of these visceral characters and their circumstances.” —National Book Award Finalist Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
 
“A gritty tale of mystery and desire, it breaks from the gate with power and grace and never falters. This book has legs.” —Pulitzer Prize Finalist Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever
 
Watch Me Go is urgent, wrenching, and—as the two entwined narratives pick up speed and consequence—riveting. The momentum carries us through to revelations about family and redemption . . . A deft and sure novel.” —Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower
 
"A deeply-felt story of the way two people, a young Black man and a White woman, are damned equally by the choices they make as well as the circumstances forced upon them. The novel unfolds with the pace of a thriller, leading us through the world of gambling, horse-racing, and prisons both real and imagined, all told in voices that ring true from start to finish.” —Ru Freeman, author of A Disobedient Girl and On Sal Mal Lane 
 
"Mark Wisniewski's gift for inhabiting his characters, body and soul, is more than impressive—it smacks of the dark arts, and Watch Me Go is scary good.  Seductively plotted, crazily well-written, and wholly gripping, this book at once gallops headlong and stops you in your tracks with a truths-per-page quotient that is off the charts—laser-fine insights into how we love, leave, gamble, lose, redeem, and strive once more for love.  Get a good grip on the reins, reader: Watch Me Go is one hell of a ride." —Tim Johnston, author of Descent and Irish Girl
 
"Watch Me Go is a nuanced, suspenseful work of a prodigious and stunning imagination. Mark Wisniewski has created a literary novel of suspense that displays on every page the author's bracing intelligence and humanity." —Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts and Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry
 
"Watch Me Go’s timeless weaving of narratives about love, luck, and loss is wonderfully suspenseful and insightful. Wisniewski has crafted a soulful thriller that kept me guessing until the final page." —Alethea Black, author of I Knew You’d Be Lovely
 

 

 

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
Douglas “Deesh” Sharp has managed to stay out of trouble living in the Bronx, paying his rent by hauling junk for cash. But on the morning Deesh and two pals head upstate to dispose of a sealed oil drum whose contents smell and weigh enough to contain a human corpse, he becomes mixed up in a serious crime. When his plans for escape spiral terribly out of control, Deesh quickly finds himself a victim of betrayal—and the prime suspect in the murders of three white men. 
 

When Jan, a young jockey from the gritty underworld of the Finger Lakes racetrack breaks her silence about gambling and organized crime, Deesh learns how the story of her past might, against all odds, free him from a life behind bars.
 

Interweaving Deesh’s and Jan’s gripping narratives, Watch Me Go is a wonderfully insightful work that examines how we love, leave, lose, redeem, and strive for justice. At once compulsively readable, thought-provoking, and complex, it is a suspenseful, compassionate meditation on the power of love and the injustices of hate.
ABOUT MARK WISNIEWSKI
Mark Wisniewski’s fiction has been published in The Best American Short Stories, The Southern Review, Antioch Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. His stories have won a Pushcart Prize and a Tobias Wolff Award, and numerous fellowships in fiction. He lives with his wife on a lake in upstate New York.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. One of the themes of Watch Me Gois choice versus fate. Did Deesh’s trouble arise because he made bad choices or because his choices were limited by fate to begin with? Has your own background ever limited your choices in life? Have you ever felt doomed—or favored—by fate?
  2. Another theme in Watch Me Gois love versus hatred. Is there a character in the book who embodies the most genuine love? Who do you feel is most hateful?
  3. If Jan hadn’t stepped forward to tell Deesh her story, would Deesh have had any chance to be released from prison? Did Deesh’s presence in that small white visiting room help Jan deal with her feelings about her difficult summer? Who needed the other more in the relationship between Jan and Deesh?
  4. Do you believe, as Tom said, that his primary reason for gambling was that he felt the need to raise money for Jan and her mother? Explain why or why not.
  5. If you had been Madalynn, would you have gone to Rikers Island to visit Deesh? What would you have said to him? How forgiving would you have been?
  6. Consider the cop who confronted Deesh and Bark in the Bronx. Was he racist, or was he just joking around? Could his arguable racism have been used as a legal defense by Deesh or Bark, with respect to their “proactive” reactions to his taunts?
  7. Why did Tug gamble after Tom’s death? Did he have good intentions? At that point, do you think he was gambling as a way of mourning, or merely as a means of escape?
  8. Colleen didn’t speak much about her emotions in this novel. How do you think she felt when Tom was gambling away their money? Do you believe she supported him emotionally as he gambled? Was she angry or relieved when he disappeared? How do you think she felt when he was found?
  9. Did Gabe ever have true intentions to help Deesh disappear from society? Was Gabe suicidal before Deesh took him hostage? If so, why?
  10. What crime, if any, is Deesh guilty of? Does he deserve to be punished? Do you think he will receive a prison sentence? Why or why not?

Customer Reviews

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Watch Me Go 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Superb page-turner that's also very, very well-written. Weaves two candid first-person narratives that hook you from the start & keep building in poignancy, especially when you consider everything that the female narrator (Jan, a horseracing jockey wannabe from Arkansas) has been through, yet she's now spilling her guts to this imprisoned black guy accused of killing a white cop. At the very start I thought: How could this actually happen--but that was probably just my prejudice--and anyway you get caught up in all the great storytelling, on top of the fact that, at the very end, you think: Why COULDN'T it happen? This is one of those novels that challenges your expectations/prejudices and makes you re-think. I loved how it made me uncomfortable now and then but kept surprising and wowing me. I'd recommend it as A-1 to anyone.
S3 More than 1 year ago
Great novel. Suspenseful, insightful, extremely well-written yet compellingly accessible--loved it. Dare I say it's Wisniewski's best novel yet?
bherrick1985 More than 1 year ago
Watch Me Go is a book about sadness. When your last lent chips are on the table and your escape plan is only a delaying of consequences. Mark Wisniewski does an incredible job of crafting these characters around a false hope whether it be with Jan who thinks she has it all figured out but is kidding herself and forcing her perspective on the situation, or Deesh, the one who realizes he has no shot but tries anyway. The minor characters have the same delusions about life and what they can achieve but none of them want to put in the right work to get there. They are all lying to themselves. They deceive themselves as to the world around them at times with a dark humor to their situations. There are several crimes that are committed over the course of the book, but it is not a crime book. There is no pulpy detective and neither of the characters accept that trite mantle. Doing so would cheapen the characters and the complexity Mark Wisniewski has woven into them. This is a book about people trying to survive whether they know how or are grasping.