Country Noir: The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living by Martin Clark

As an expert on the many aspects of mobile home living, I thought this book would be right up my alley.  And while it sadly neglects the many aspects of singlewide living, focusing on its more urbane brother, the doublewide, I was not disappointed.

In this masterful debut, Martin Clark proves to be the heir apparent of great Southern raconteurs and the envy of more seasoned novelists as he takes us on a frantic tour of the modern south.

Hung over, beaten by the unforgiving sun, bitter at his estranged wife, and dreading the day’s docket of petty criminal cases, Judge Evers Wheeling is in need of something on the morning he’s accosted by Ruth Esther English. Ruth Esther’s strange story certainly is something, and Judge Wheeling finds himself in uncharted territory. Reluctantly agreeing to help Ruth Esther retrieve some stolen money, he recruits his pot-addled brother and a band of merry hangers-on for the big adventure. Raucous road trips, infidelity, suspected killers, winning Lotto tickets, drunken philosophical rants, and at least one naked woman tied to a road sign ensue in The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, one part legal thriller, one part murder mystery, and all parts all wild.

Not at first, mind you.  I had a bit of trouble getting into this book.  I never got into Faulkner, but I read Cormac McCarthy and listen to Chris Knight; I should be able to get into this.  I stuck it out, and I did.  The style can be a bit jarring.  The need to pull us away from reality is accomplished by putting us in the slightly addled head of the protagonist.

So we get a lot of random details noticed at random times and the occasional hallucination.  The sort of Otis-staggering, random walk down Broad Street is good for keeping the reader guessing.  Both my initial frustration and later satisfaction sprung largely from not knowing where in the heck the daggum thing was going.  It does go somewhere, and I did find it satisfying.

The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living has all sorts of things to pique my interest: sleepy North Carolina, heavy drinking, a mysterious woman, the law, and of course mobile home living.  For a half-baked Yankee (read: person who now lives in the Midwest), Martin captures my home state (and, really, sleepy is the appropriate word) quite well.  As a legal thriller and madcap caper it’s sort of tepid, but it’s far more than that.  It’s funny.  It offers insights into southern culture and human nature.  And it shows the nuance of having a brother you’re very close to.

4 of 5 Stars.


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