There are generally three or four big successes in the life of a good book. If an author is lucky, sales peak when a book is first published, and they spike again should the book be made into a movie or if it wins a major award. Most reliably of all however is that warm glow of popularity bestowed upon an author precisely when they can least enjoy it: right after they die.
The irony would not be lost on sardonic author Charles Portis, who died last Monday in his home in Arkansas at the age of 86. Best known for his witty, gritty anti-romantic 1968 western True Grit, as well as popular film adaptations starring John Wayne and Jeff Bridges, Portis is enjoying a revival of popularity, with waiting lists on his other novels and stories as well. (Portis excelled at road novels, and my own favorite is his The Dog of the South, which tells of the offbeat misadventures of Ray Midge, who falls in with odd company on a trip south of the border searching for his runaway wife Norma. Or join hayseed folk singer Norwood Pratt on his own equally amiable cross-country ramble, this one from Texas to Manhattan.)
We urge you to rediscover this mischievous author, and while you wait for your Charles Portis reserves to come in, we’ve made a list of some other writers and books with a similar feel. Here’s a preview of some titles that reflect the dark humor of Portis’ more contemporary books:
Hillbilly Hustle, by Welsey Browne. Knox Thompson thinks he’s working a hustle, but it’s a hustle that’s working him. Trying to keep his pizza shop and parents afloat, he cleans out a backroom Kentucky poker game, only to get roped into dealing marijuana by the proprietor-an arrangement Knox only halfheartedly resists.
The Last Taxi Driver, by Lee Durkee. The good naturedly gritty tale of Lou, a writer deep into his sophomore slump and UFO enthusiast who has returned to his home state of Mississippi drives for a ramshackle taxi company that operates on the outskirts of a college town among the trailer parks and housing projects.
Sweetgirl, by Travis Mulhauser. Braving a northern Michigan blizzard to search for her missing meth-addicted mother, Percy James stops by the cabin of two drug addicts and flees with their endangered baby, triggering a dangerous race from the elements and a band of desperate criminals.
Rooster: The Life and Times of the Real Rooster Cogburn, the Man Who Inspired True Grit, by Brett Cogburn. Yep, he was real: Franklin “Rooster” Cogburn was born in 1866 in Fancy Hill, Arkansas, the descendant of pioneers and moonshiners. Six foot three, dark eyed, and a dead shot with a rifle, he was as hard as the rocky mountain ground his family settled. Read all about him – or check out this documentary about the real history behind the book and the film.
~ posted by David W.