Presidio
Set in the 1970s in the vast and arid landscape of the Texas panhandle, this darkly comic and stunningly mature literary debut tells the story of a car thief and his brother who set out to recover some stolen money and inadvertently kidnap a Mennonite girl who has her own reasons for being on the run.Troy Falconer returns home after years of working as a solitary car thief to help his younger brother, Harlan, search for his wife, who has run away with the little money he had. When they steal a station wagon for the journey, the brothers accidentally kidnap Martha Zacharias, a Mennonite girl asleep in the back of the car. Martha turns out to be a stubborn survivor who refuses to be sent home, so together these unlikely road companions attempt to escape across the Mexican border, pursued by the police and Martha’s vengeful father.The story is told partly through Troy’s journal, in which he chronicles his encounters with con artists, down-and-outers, and roadside philosophers, people looking for fast money, human connection, or a home long since vanished. The journal details a breakdown that has left Troy unable to function in conventional society; he is reduced to haunting motels, stealing from men roughly his size, living with their possessions in order to have none of his own and all but disappearing into their identities.With a page-turning plot about a kidnapped child, gorgeously written scenes that probe the soul of the American West, and an austere landscape as real as any character, Presidio packs a powerful punch of anomie, dark humor, pathos, and suspense.

Presidio Details

TitlePresidio
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 21st, 2018
PublisherTouchstone
ISBN-139781501153860
Rating
GenreFiction, Suspense, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Mystery

Presidio Review

  • Dorothy
    January 1, 1970
    Lee Child did not steer me wrong. I read his glowing review of Randy Kennedy's first novel in the Times and knew that I had to read that book. He did not exaggerate. Presidio is a terrific example of Texas noir, with an engaging and somewhat unexpected main character who is a professional car thief.The novel is set in the Staked Plains and borderlands of West Texas in the early 1970s. Among the best things about the book - among a wide choice of very good things - were the photograph-like descri Lee Child did not steer me wrong. I read his glowing review of Randy Kennedy's first novel in the Times and knew that I had to read that book. He did not exaggerate. Presidio is a terrific example of Texas noir, with an engaging and somewhat unexpected main character who is a professional car thief.The novel is set in the Staked Plains and borderlands of West Texas in the early 1970s. Among the best things about the book - among a wide choice of very good things - were the photograph-like descriptions of that arid and spare but beautiful landscape of flat plains rolling into mountains, and country roads where you can see for miles and miles. It's a landscape marked by the occasional nodding pump jack, long before the coming of the wind farms that dot the area today. The 1970s were another country; a country without the internet and cell phones and being constantly connected to the outside world; a country where the border between Texas and Mexico is an amiable line of traffic over a wooden bridge where people come and go more or less at will to work or to buy and sell. It's a country that Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry have traversed successfully in many books. Now, Randy Kennedy adds his name to that list.Troy Falconer is Kennedy's protagonist. He is a vagabond who has been on the road for many years, earning his way as a thief. Specifically, as a car thief. He steals cars, usually from motel guests, often taking their belongings from the motel room as well. He has perfected his technique over several years and has never been caught. He never keeps any car for long, swapping each one for a different vehicle at his first opportunity.As we meet Troy, he is returning to the rural West Texas town where he grew up to help his younger brother, Harlan. Harlan's wife had recently absconded with all of the money that he had. Not much to be sure, but he wants it - if not her - back. Troy is there to help him find the wife and get the money. When they head out on the trail of the wife, Harlan's old truck doesn't get them far and Troy's skills as a car thief are immediately pressed into service. He steals a station wagon at a convenience store and the two men head south. What they don't realize at first is that there is a third person in the station wagon. Ten-year-old Martha Zacharias, a Mennonite girl from Mexico, currently living in Texas with her aunt, whose car it was, was lying down on the back seat of the vehicle when it was stolen. She stays quiet and they don't realize she is there until one night, while the men are sleeping outside, she attempts to drive the station wagon away. When they discover her, she demands that they take her to El Paso where she can meet her father. They compromise on taking her as far as Presidio and buying her a bus ticket to El Paso.The narrative of their trip south is interspersed with the narrative that introduces Martha's family and background and a remarkable set of notes that Troy has written and leaves in the glove compartments of the vehicles he drives. The notes are styled as "Notes for the police" and they consist of a kind of journal of his explanation of what he has done and how he came to be the person that he is. (The first line of the book is: "Later, in the glove box, the police found a binder of notes.") These notes also include some darkly humorous stories of his time on the road and some of the people he has encountered along the way. It is through the notes that we get to know Troy and Harlan and their now dead father and we learn what happened to their mother.The propulsion of the plot is the brothers' flight to the border with their accidental kidnap victim, looking over their shoulders all the way, expecting to see the police. The plot moves almost organically and those pages keep turning almost by themselves as everything converges at Presidio for the final denouement.It's hard to believe this is Kennedy's first novel. It is a very accomplished effort with characters that seem real enough that one could reach out and touch them, a landscape with an aridity that one can taste on the tongue, and a plot filled with a comedy of errors that somehow doesn't seem fanciful at all. All of which brings to mind a line from Troy's "notes": "Just because a story isn't real doesn't mean it isn't true."
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  • Michael Martz
    January 1, 1970
    A+ on writing, solid C on story. Picked it up due to its setting (west Texas, where I lived for 5 years back in the 70's) and gushing reviews mentioning the author in the same breath as (gasp!) Cormac McCarthy and James Lee Burke. I don't know about the McCarthy reference, but Randy Kennedy sure can write.The plot is a sad/funny/weird one: a young guy from some small town outside Lubbock leaves home in the early 70's and makes his 'living' stealing cars, personal items, and identities from fello A+ on writing, solid C on story. Picked it up due to its setting (west Texas, where I lived for 5 years back in the 70's) and gushing reviews mentioning the author in the same breath as (gasp!) Cormac McCarthy and James Lee Burke. I don't know about the McCarthy reference, but Randy Kennedy sure can write.The plot is a sad/funny/weird one: a young guy from some small town outside Lubbock leaves home in the early 70's and makes his 'living' stealing cars, personal items, and identities from fellow travelers around west Texas. That's the part of the state nearly bereft of people (other than the metropolis of Lubbock and some small towns literally in the middle of nowhere) but chock full of cotton fields, cattle, oil pumps, and expansive, flat, wide open spaces. He loses touch with his family, returns home on a whim to find his childhood home owned by someone else, his brother living in a shack out in the sticks, and his father dead and buried. He and his brother, with whom he has an odd relationship, leave and begin a quest (using stolen vehicles, of course) to track down his brother's ex-wife, who has absconded with his money. He has his own secret reason for wanting to find the woman which he's unable and unwilling to share with his brother. As they travel south and need to change vehicles every so often in order to elude the authorities, they inadvertently kidnap a young Mennonite girl with her own strange backstory who'd been sleeping unnoticed in the rear of a car they swiped at a convenience store. When they finally realize they have a child in the car and they're probably now wanted for kidnapping, they make plans to safely leave her where she can make her way back to her people. She's not interested though. The kid's a real pistol, that's for sure..... The conclusion isn't of the 'feel good' variety but does wrap up a few loose ends. I can see a sort of Coen Brothers moving coming out of it.The author, who grew up in Plainview, captures the topography, speech patterns, and attitudes perfectly, which is why the Burke reference makes sense. It's a part of the country most folks aren't familiar with but it has its own very real identity that Kennedy does a great job weaving into the story. The main character narrates part of the book (in italics), mostly providing background on himself and his family situation, with the actual story told in the 3rd person. It's a neat approach that progressively reveals the sadness that permeated the brothers’ lives and brought them to their present situation. Presidio is a promising first novel by a writer who has the chops to produce a lot more. Here's hoping......
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  • Kerry
    January 1, 1970
    I have always been a sucker for detailed descriptions of minutiae. They're like ice cream on the world-building cake, and oh my goodness Randy Kennedy is serving up double-scoops. Presidio is rich with specific, vivid details that make the Texas panhandle of the 60s and 70s feel like a living thing, and the characters feel like distant relatives. Familiarity through meticulous description. But the prose isn't bossy, and never feels like it's struggling under its own weight. In fact it's snappy a I have always been a sucker for detailed descriptions of minutiae. They're like ice cream on the world-building cake, and oh my goodness Randy Kennedy is serving up double-scoops. Presidio is rich with specific, vivid details that make the Texas panhandle of the 60s and 70s feel like a living thing, and the characters feel like distant relatives. Familiarity through meticulous description. But the prose isn't bossy, and never feels like it's struggling under its own weight. In fact it's snappy as hell, with solid pacing and great tension start to finish. A smooth glide of a read, even as it cycles through several points of view (with no one POV feeling noticeably weaker against the rest, commendable in and of itself). I was eager to get my hands on this arc, and it totally delivered. It'll be an easy recommendation to make come August.
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  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley to read and review.PRESIDIO by Randy Kennedy is a novel taking place in rural Texas that is centered around three main characters, two brothers Troy and Harlan, and a young Mennonite girl named Martha.Troy is a life long grifter who started out as a youth boosting cars in an automobile theft ring, and who later goes off on his own traveling the southwest area by stealing cars, money, clothing, and other valuables and quickly exc I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley to read and review.PRESIDIO by Randy Kennedy is a novel taking place in rural Texas that is centered around three main characters, two brothers Troy and Harlan, and a young Mennonite girl named Martha.Troy is a life long grifter who started out as a youth boosting cars in an automobile theft ring, and who later goes off on his own traveling the southwest area by stealing cars, money, clothing, and other valuables and quickly exchanging everything along the way by starting over to leave no trace or trail for anyone to follow.Harlan, Troy’s brother has never left the area he’s lived his entire lifetime, and has lived an uneventful life; that is until he marries a woman who is a grifter known to Troy previously, and she takes everything Harlan has, so Troy decides to return to make a trek with his brother in an attempt to locate her south of the border, and hopefully get back some of what’s been taken.Martha had been living with her father before his incarceration, and her aunt takes her in when she hears of her situation.Paths cross between the three when along the way Troy steals her aunt’s station wagon unknowingly with Martha asleep in the back, and the two brothers are faced with the impending search and kidnapping charges being added to their already growing list of crimes committed.Jonas, Martha’s father, has been imprisoned south of the border, so since the brothers were already headed to Mexico in search of Harlan’s wayward wife, they agree to drop Martha off where she’ll be able to travel the rest of the way to where Jonas is supposed to be jailed.Do the brothers have a chance at safely crossing the border, likely for good this time, and will Martha be reunited with her father before being sent back to her aunt or the former Mennonite community in which she lived previously?I liked this book as it develops at a slow pace befitting the area where it takes place, and the miles traveled along the way, also to illustrate the idle time Troy has to endure in his chosen path.Randy Kennedy, the author, mentions “The Last Picture Show” in the closing credits, and Larry McMurtry’s quote on the cover praises the author and the book, so it’s no surprise that it feels somewhat like a 70’s stripped down version of McMurtry’s classic novel, as the pace and the way the characters are presented makes this story work in very much the same way.4 stars.
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  • John Rumery
    January 1, 1970
    I had high hopes. Texas border country. Grifters. Mennonites. 1970's. But this book was a bit too meandering for my taste. Good, descriptive writer. Fairly unconventional plot and narrative but I ended up scanning many of the last chapters because so much was not happening. At it's best, it really captured the era of motels in western Texas - so that was cool however I never really cared for the two brothers, the young girl they inadvertently kidnapped or her stoic father. Overall, it was a stro I had high hopes. Texas border country. Grifters. Mennonites. 1970's. But this book was a bit too meandering for my taste. Good, descriptive writer. Fairly unconventional plot and narrative but I ended up scanning many of the last chapters because so much was not happening. At it's best, it really captured the era of motels in western Texas - so that was cool however I never really cared for the two brothers, the young girl they inadvertently kidnapped or her stoic father. Overall, it was a strong average.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy!The synopsis of this book doesn't do it justice. It's sold as the story of two brothers on the run who accidentally kidnap a young girl... and while that's true, it's not the WHOLE story. No, this novel is so much more than that, so I decided to write my own synopsis:Troy lives outside society. He stakes out seedy motels on the interstate in search of a man about his size, learns his patterns, and then robs him blind of everything but family p Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy!The synopsis of this book doesn't do it justice. It's sold as the story of two brothers on the run who accidentally kidnap a young girl... and while that's true, it's not the WHOLE story. No, this novel is so much more than that, so I decided to write my own synopsis:Troy lives outside society. He stakes out seedy motels on the interstate in search of a man about his size, learns his patterns, and then robs him blind of everything but family pictures and wedding rings. Then, he inhabits their possessions - clothes, books, car - until they start to feel a little too much like his, and then he starts over again, keeping only a makeshift journal written on cheap motel memo pads. He wants the identity, not just the fast cash.His brother Harlan, on the other hand, clings to their past and kept their childhood home preserved practically as a museum. Troy comes back to their hometown when Harlan's mail order bride goes missing with all of Harlan's savings - and in the course of their pursuit they steal a car and unwittingly kidnap young Martha, a Mennonite girl with her own troubles to contend with. Dark, atmospheric, ambling, deeply introspective, with the rich setting of 1970s west Texas - this is a story for someone who knows what it's like to feel on the outside.
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  • Nick
    January 1, 1970
    Lyrical writing about harsh lives in a harsh part of Texas, from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande, this tale of two brothers in the 70s, estranged by guilt and crime, go on a pointless search for the femme fatale that messed with them both. Along the way the car thief of the two picks a station wagon with a surprise hidden passenger, an eleven year old nearly mute Mennonite girl caught between her own Hobson's choice between horrible relatives. Taut, funny, deeply sad, this one's a keeper.
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  • Charla Skaggs
    January 1, 1970
    I’m tempted to rate it higher simply because it’s set in - and so beautifully describes - the Texas Panhandle where I grew up. If I’m honest, I’m a little jealous of Kennedy’s ability to create a mental picture of the landscape. It’s uncanny. I think it’s a very good story, and I loved it. I felt the ending didn’t live up to the start of the story; but still, worth the time to read. A beautifully told story, about people most of society ignores.
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  • Peter
    January 1, 1970
    Randy Kennedy's debut novel Presidio (2018) follows the trials and tribulations of Troy Falconer, a modern West Texas cowboy who has left the cows behind for occasional work on oil rigs and full-time work as a thief. Troy enjoys nothing more than using other people's things—anything stolen is a pleasure: stolen cars, stolen money, stolen clothes. His goal in life is to own nothing, but to have everything. He works the Texas motels, where traveling salesmen have perp-worthy things for Troy to bor Randy Kennedy's debut novel Presidio (2018) follows the trials and tribulations of Troy Falconer, a modern West Texas cowboy who has left the cows behind for occasional work on oil rigs and full-time work as a thief. Troy enjoys nothing more than using other people's things—anything stolen is a pleasure: stolen cars, stolen money, stolen clothes. His goal in life is to own nothing, but to have everything. He works the Texas motels, where traveling salesmen have perp-worthy things for Troy to borrow.This is not a book for those who want endings. While there are events to experience and people to meet, this is not a book about the destination—it's all about the journey. What you'll experience is outstanding writing—it is simultaneously deadpan and comedic, reportorial while it drips with a deep feeling of nostalgia and loss. The book is a candidate for the Great American Novel, with echoes of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, the disconnectedness of the Joads in Grapes of Wrath, and more than a little bit of the road trips in Thelma and Louise. The story is told in long chapters with two voices: the first is Troy's backstory told in his "notes to the police," long italicized monologues on how he got to the here and now. The second voice is a hovering narrator's view of current events as Troy navigates the West Teas roads. The characters live hardscrabble lives on the edges of a successful America: they are dead-ended at birth by parents who had little to offer; they have an education so minimal that there is nothing to build on; they have the morals to match their situation yet somehow seem to be good folks. None are likable, none are thrivers, but they all are survivors just putting one foot in front of the other. It's the early 1970s and Troy Falconer is a thirtyish wanderer without a destination, a man who doesn't even leave a shadow behind. He's not truly a bad man, he just has a strong instinct to survive with a hope for something better. As he says, If my sin is anything it's being too much of an American—a throwback to the pioneers who settled this great country, always headed somewhere to claim something with little more than a horse and the ragged clothes on their backs; or before them, back to the Comanche who made no permanent home in this part of the country and considered most of what he had only temporarily his. Troy's mother, Ruby, died when he was very young in a family tragedy we'll learn about late in the book. His father, Bill Ray Falconer, raised their sons, Troy and Harlan, in the noble traditions of the male Falconers: he taught them to whistle, spit, snap their fingers, and whittle, as well as to drive, to shoot, and other manly arts. Troy's last sighting of Bill Ray was years ago, when Dad took his two sons fishing and the trio brought home a carp. Bill Ray put it in the bathtub, where [I]t swam around briefly but then seemed to accept its fate and floated motionless, staring down the length of the tub, as if waiting for an appointment. When the boys woke the next morning the carp was gone, along with Billy Ray. Troy is now headed home, to the house that Harlan inherited from Bill Ray and which, he'll find, has been taken for back taxes. His trip home is not motivated by a need to reconnect. Harlan has told him that Harlan's wife Bettie—a con artist who had first been in Troy's bed—has stolen $25,000 left to Harlan by Bill Ray. Troy figures half of it is his, so he is on the way to join Harlan in tracking Bettie down. On the way Troy stops by the cemetery to visit Ruby and Bill Ray; there he finds a strange headstone for the still-living Harlan. When he eventually sees Harlan he learns that the headstone was bought in a two-for-one deal when Bill Ray died. As Harlan says, Only thing of value I have left and I have to be dead to use it. There must be a country song in there somewhere. Troy steals a sedate station wagon and he and Harlan head to Mexico. Little do they know that asleep in the back of the station wagon is Martha, an eleven year old Mennonite girl who had been living with her aunt (the car's owner) after being returned from Mexico where Martha had been taken by her father. Martha is the spunkiest and most likable character in the book; she brooks no opposition.Aron, Martha's father, had been excommunicated by his Mennonite colony in Mexico because he put modern rubber tires on his tractor. Shunned by his wife's family, he abducted Martha from her mother and several siblings and went to Mexico where they lived in a trailer with two of Aron's workmates. One of the workmates molests Martha and Aron beats him badly. Aron goes to a Mexican prison land Martha is sent to live with her aunt in Texas. But now Martha has been abducted yet again, this time inadvertently, and she is heading back to Mexico with the Falconer boys. Their destination is the border station at Presidio, Texas. In Presidio the story ends quickly at he border station. Kennedy never hints at the book's destination, which might leave some readers feeling cheated but was, to me, perfectly consistent with the book's tenor: none of the characters seems to have a clue about their destination. This is a story that will stay with me for a while. Four and ½ stars.
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  • Michelle Lancaster
    January 1, 1970
    LITERARY ACTION/ADVENTURERandy KennedyPresidio: A NovelTouchstoneHardcover, 978-1-5011-5386-0 (also available as an e-book and audio-book), 320 pgs., $26.00August 21, 2018“Later, in the glove box, the police found a folder of notes. It said: Notes for the police.”Troy Alan Falconer hasn’t been home to the fictional Texas Panhandle town of New Cona in six years. Despite his trepidation, Troy returns, answering a summons from his younger brother, Harlan, whose wife, Bettie, has absconded with all LITERARY ACTION/ADVENTURERandy KennedyPresidio: A NovelTouchstoneHardcover, 978-1-5011-5386-0 (also available as an e-book and audio-book), 320 pgs., $26.00August 21, 2018“Later, in the glove box, the police found a folder of notes. It said: Notes for the police.”Troy Alan Falconer hasn’t been home to the fictional Texas Panhandle town of New Cona in six years. Despite his trepidation, Troy returns, answering a summons from his younger brother, Harlan, whose wife, Bettie, has absconded with all the money he had in the world. The two set out to find Bettie, but the task veers awry when Troy steals a station wagon from a Tahoka grocery-store parking lot. Unbeknownst to the brothers, an eleven-year-old Mennonite girl named Martha is hiding in the back. When they discover her the next morning, Martha has an agenda of her own, demanding the brothers return her to her father in Juárez. An inadvertent kidnapping being degrees of magnitude worse than advertent grand theft auto, the three head for México by way of Presidio.Presidio: A Novel is debut fiction from Randy Kennedy, who grew up in Plains on the Llano Estacado. Kennedy decamped for New York City, where he wrote for the New York Times for twenty-five years, first as a city reporter and then covering the art world. Kennedy’s prose about the large hold of small places, the people as weather-beaten as the landscape, grabs you and refuses to relinquish its grip. Original and enthralling, Presidio is American realism in the vein of John Steinbeck and Stephen Crane.The first thing I saw when I unwrapped my copy of Presidio was a blurb by Larry McMurtry, sitting at the top of the cover like a crown. McMurtry frequently obliges his tetchy reputation. During a speech at a Fort Worth museum in 1981, in the first-person testimony of then–book editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Larry Swindell, McMurtry “categorically put down Texas writing and Texas writers, dismissing them individually and collectively as having produced no literature of lasting value.” McMurtry charges sentimentality regarding myths of ourselves. We generally plead guilty, which is what makes his blurb of Kennedy’s first novel a surprise. So, expectations raised.Troy, emotionally fragile, is a wild thing, all eyes and ears and reflexes. He woke one morning, a switch in his head having flipped sometime in the night, and decided to check out of conventional society, to embark on “the careful and highly precarious maintenance of a life almost completely purified of personal property,” never feeling better than when he’s on the move. The notes he left in the last stolen car list some of his favorites things, including stealing cars, a task in which “habit was [his] chief accomplice,” his “only adversaries dogs and insomniacs,” and motel rooms during hot afternoons smelling of “freon and anonymity.”Troy’s narrative alternates between third person and those first-person notes, as well as back and forth in time, from formative vignettes to the current aborted search for Bettie turned run for the border. Troy’s dry humor and weary, paranoid voice claims stealing cars a way of life, “a calling that felt almost religious … I would have been its reverend, preaching my message of freedom through loss from my pulpit behind the dashboard.” This is when I had a conversion experience.Rendering a sparse land in rich detail, Kennedy writes West Texas as James Lee Burke writes New Iberia. I live in the part of Texas Kennedy writes about, so I step out my front door into Kennedy’s landscape and it is spot-on, the land acting as a fourth main character.Precise, economical word choices pack an emotional punch out of proportion to their brevity. When Troy visits his family’s cemetery plot he thinks that “all he ever felt in a cemetery was a sense of looking for something in the wrong place,” the dash after a birthdate on a gravestone for a man not yet passed is a “cruel piece of punctuation standing in for a man’s whole life.”Expectations met. Presidio is a modern tale of the Old West, of life on the shifting margins with grifters and drifters, a peculiarly American restlessness.Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.
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  • Paul Pessolano
    January 1, 1970
    “Presidio” by Randy Kennedy, published by Touchstone Books.Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – August 21, 2018.Troy Alan Falconer is and always has been a car thief. He wants no possessions and lives day to day by stealing cars. He haunts motels and outside of his brothers has no friends.Although he hasn’t seen his brother for years he hooks up with him and they both, in a stolen car, head out looking for his brother’s wife who has left him and has taken what little money he had.It “Presidio” by Randy Kennedy, published by Touchstone Books.Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – August 21, 2018.Troy Alan Falconer is and always has been a car thief. He wants no possessions and lives day to day by stealing cars. He haunts motels and outside of his brothers has no friends.Although he hasn’t seen his brother for years he hooks up with him and they both, in a stolen car, head out looking for his brother’s wife who has left him and has taken what little money he had.It is only after some time on the road that they discover a young Mennonite girl in the back seat covered by a blanket.They make an effort to get rid of her but she insists that they take her to her father who is in prison. Unable to get rid of her they cross the Texas Panhandle and head for Mexico.They spend their time hiding out, pursued by the police, trying to convince the girl to go home, and stealing more cars.I found this novel to be uneven and difficult to follow as the scenes keep shifting as do the characters. I did like the writing but the story left a lot to be desired, especially the ending.
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  • Marcia
    January 1, 1970
    Here is a very unusual first novel written by a seasoned art reporter at The NY Times. This is a very unlikely book for a writer coming from his background, and yet his lovely discriptive writing brings the rough and beautiful Texas terrain to life along with a cast of mismatched characters. Troy Falconer, a ne’er do well lifetime car thief, who lives in motels and never put down roots, joins his brother Harlan, a kind gentle loner of a man, on a road trip quest to find Bettie, Harlan ‘s wife wh Here is a very unusual first novel written by a seasoned art reporter at The NY Times. This is a very unlikely book for a writer coming from his background, and yet his lovely discriptive writing brings the rough and beautiful Texas terrain to life along with a cast of mismatched characters. Troy Falconer, a ne’er do well lifetime car thief, who lives in motels and never put down roots, joins his brother Harlan, a kind gentle loner of a man, on a road trip quest to find Bettie, Harlan ‘s wife who has absconded with whatever money Harlan had. Of course the trip begins in a stolen car where much to the surprise of the brothers, a young but feisty Mexican Mennonite girl has been hiding. They do not discover her until the book is at least half way done. This noir story meanders somewhat and includes many Italicized parts where Troy is thinking out loud. At times it a bit difficult to follow. That said, this book is a solid, mostly interesting, original novel with an author I will be watching for in the future.
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  • Cvillejon
    January 1, 1970
    Well-written noir that takes place in southwest Texas which is a forbidding place. Driving through that part of the country not long ago I too had the thought that it must have been hell for people who had to traverse such a wide open and inhospitable place on horseback. I think there are plenty of spots where you can see about 100 miles or so. It’s weird enough traveling on I10 and seeing the same scenery in the distance for an hour and a half; hard to imagine how dispiriting it might have been Well-written noir that takes place in southwest Texas which is a forbidding place. Driving through that part of the country not long ago I too had the thought that it must have been hell for people who had to traverse such a wide open and inhospitable place on horseback. I think there are plenty of spots where you can see about 100 miles or so. It’s weird enough traveling on I10 and seeing the same scenery in the distance for an hour and a half; hard to imagine how dispiriting it might have been for people on horseback who might require a week to travel the same distance. There is a sign somewhere along this part of route 10 that warns drivers not to pick up hitchhikers because there is a prison nearby. Randy Kennedy wrote a story that is true to such a place. And that is high praise.
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  • Corny
    January 1, 1970
    After a very promising start, this book peters out about two thirds of the way through and ends abruptly and incomprehensibly. The plot loses its way in a mishmash of different but intercut streams.The three protagonists, Troy,Harlan and Martha are thrown together improbably and for a while their impromptu road trip through West Texas is by degrees entertaining and sad. However, the story cannot be sustained simply by vivid descriptions Unlike Cormac McCarthy whose wonderful settings enhance his After a very promising start, this book peters out about two thirds of the way through and ends abruptly and incomprehensibly. The plot loses its way in a mishmash of different but intercut streams.The three protagonists, Troy,Harlan and Martha are thrown together improbably and for a while their impromptu road trip through West Texas is by degrees entertaining and sad. However, the story cannot be sustained simply by vivid descriptions Unlike Cormac McCarthy whose wonderful settings enhance his storyline, these descriptions seem to be trying to break a record for naming as many obscure plants as possible. In the absurd ending, we are left with nothing but despair. Not my cup of tea.
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  • David C Ward
    January 1, 1970
    Quite good. This is labeled as Texas Noir but lacks the kind of jaunty wisecracking tone of someone like Joe Lansdale. It’s not really genre fiction at all but a novel with real consequences. It’s about how families break apart, how the main character comes to live alone - stealing so he doesn’t have to own - and how a Mennonite from Mexico goes mad. The attempt by two brothers to find the woman who stole their inheritance goes off the rails when they steal a car which has, unnoticed by them, a Quite good. This is labeled as Texas Noir but lacks the kind of jaunty wisecracking tone of someone like Joe Lansdale. It’s not really genre fiction at all but a novel with real consequences. It’s about how families break apart, how the main character comes to live alone - stealing so he doesn’t have to own - and how a Mennonite from Mexico goes mad. The attempt by two brothers to find the woman who stole their inheritance goes off the rails when they steal a car which has, unnoticed by them, a little Mennonite girl in it. From that error, things get worse. Texas is well observed as is life on the road (it’s terrific on motels) but above all on the desperation of all the characters, even the minor ones like the man and his three kids at the motel pool.
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  • Ed Mckeon
    January 1, 1970
    The gushing blurbs by writers I enjoy and respect (James Lee Burke, Larry McMurtry, Annie Proulx), the revelation that a NY Times reporter who covered the arts had turned his attention to crime and mystery, Lee Child's review in the Times...it's got to be good, right. Well, Kennedy has a gift. He uses language exquisitely, but after a hundred pages or so, descriptions of Texas hinterlands, and the dried up towns on the route of this road story, featuring cardboard characters and a plot that mean The gushing blurbs by writers I enjoy and respect (James Lee Burke, Larry McMurtry, Annie Proulx), the revelation that a NY Times reporter who covered the arts had turned his attention to crime and mystery, Lee Child's review in the Times...it's got to be good, right. Well, Kennedy has a gift. He uses language exquisitely, but after a hundred pages or so, descriptions of Texas hinterlands, and the dried up towns on the route of this road story, featuring cardboard characters and a plot that meanders exactly to the place you'd expect, and, well, ho-hum.
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  • Don
    January 1, 1970
    Four and a half stars. Troy and Harlan are brothers, unlike each other as a car and a tree. In this well written debut novel they are thrown together on a wild journey. Troy has made a career out of stealing cars and Harlan is a straight ahead guy, just trying to get by. Harlan's wife has left him and stolen all of his money from their father's cash inheritance. Troy comes home and enlists Harlan to retrieve it. Very well written. Highly recommended.
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  • Patrick SG
    January 1, 1970
    Two brothers and an unexpected passenger take a trip through west Texas to the Mexican border in a search for revenge. This sometimes comic novel also had dark and poignant moments that reminded me of a cross between a Coen brothers movie and a story by Cormac McCarthy, both of whom have explored this same geography in their works.The author's descriptive detail conjures up the atmosphere and the setting in a powerful fashion.
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  • zackxdig
    January 1, 1970
    Well that was a quick read. It’s a story about two brothers. One a conman who doesn’t like to own anything or stay in one spot and a brother who’s looking for his wife who ran away with his money. But they end up in a car with a companion in the backseat on this journey in Texas. Journal writings fill in background but I’m still left wanting more and maybe that’s a good thing or maybe that’s just they way the story plays out.
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  • Julia Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    Troy has spent most of his adult life stealing cars and traveling around. He returns to his small Texas home to help his younger brother reclaim money that has been stolen from them. As they set out on a chase to reclaim the money, they end up with a small Mennonite girl as an accomplice. The writing of this book was beautiful at times, despite the bleak subject and setting.
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  • Susan Kinnevy
    January 1, 1970
    Well, here's a real novel. Thoughtful, beautifully balanced, and so well written, this story of home and family resonates whether or not you've even been to Texas. If you have been through Texas, even better.
  • Shirley Holsinger
    January 1, 1970
    Randy Kennedy is a very excellent author....A very good read. Troy and brother Harlan are very unlikely family. Their father Billy Rae is less than most fathers. No wonder their pathways in life. Quite good.
  • Nancy J. Friedman
    January 1, 1970
    PresidioA very good read. Well written and literate. It’s a pleasure to read sentences that are so evocative and descriptive. I was sad to come to the end of such a pleasurable read.
  • Cate
    January 1, 1970
    Could not get into it. Will try again another time.
  • Suellen
    January 1, 1970
    Heard about this book on the Fully Booked Podcast at https://www.podcastone.com/episode/Ra...
  • Toby Stroud
    January 1, 1970
    Not much of a fan of this one. Story felt a bit disjointed, almost like a fever dream. Maybe it’s just not my style of story?
  • Edward Imbrie
    January 1, 1970
    A fine, engaging read. This is an excellent first novel! Captures the landscape and the characters of the Texas Panhandle in the 70s.
  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    Beautifully written but so meandering and slow it lost me two-thirds through. Whoever compared Randy Kennedy to Cormac McCarthy in the blurbs isn't doing Kennedy any favors.
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