Reviewed by Mark Finn, ©
Neal Barrett, Jr.
It's kinda hard to discuss a Neal Barrett, Jr. novel without going astray. That's
one of the great things about this Texas-based writer; he likes to get to the
point when he gets to the point. Nevertheless, I'll give it a whirl.
This book is ostensibly about Dreamer, a back-from-the-war kind of guy with the
unusual ability to make himself invisible to any and all security devices in his
immediate area. So far, he's been using his newfound power for good (he burgles,
sure, but only from people who have already stolen something from his clients).
Now, Dreamer has it made. He sells tropical fish, he spends a lot of time at Mama
Lucy's Vishnu and Jesus Barbecue, and he has a beautiful, stacked-up lawyer girlfriend
named Eileen. What could possibly go wrong?
Let's add a few things into the mix, like the mobster Mako Binder, a billionaire
named Gus Brauweiller, an angelic beauty in a green Jaguar, and a precocious little
girl who speaks like Maid Marion from the Howard Pyle translation of Robin
Interstate Dreams is a book about genetics, organized (and not-so-organized)
crime, fish, colors, and the different kinds of love. Inside its covers you'll
find kidnapping, philosophy, a dogfight, sex, and a whole lot of what makes this
book such fun to read: personality.
See, that's the thing about Neal Barret, Jr. He's a Texas author, and if there's
one thing that all Texas authors have in common, it's the ability to take their
personality and infuse it into the story. Near as I can tell, they are unique
in this ability. If you've ever read a lot of Texas-based authors, you know exactly
what I'm talking about. They've got this certain voice, and a certain way of telling
the story at its own sweet pace, omitting nothing, and occasionally getting sidetracked
to tell you about this other old boy up over that way who did some other damn
fool thing. He writes what he knows, summing up the drive between Houston and
Austin in short, eloquent sentences that make you say, "Yep, that's exactly
what it's like." I want to live in Barrett Jr.'s Austin. I think it would
be a hoot. As far as I know, there isn't a place like Mama Lucy's Vishnu and Jesus
Barbecue, but damn it, there ought to be. In his convincing prose, you are assured
of a better place at all times.
Barrett Jr, in short, is a treasure. Whether he's doing mysteries, fantasies,
or his own where-do-you-classify-them books, reading his work is simply a joy.
He writes in short, lyrical bursts, full of description and impact. I'd call it
poetical, but there's more to it than that. Barrett Jr. writes with a vibrant
economy that in no way cheats the reader, but delivers a tremendous picture of
the scene, or a characters' state of mind. He's like Cormac McCarthy, only good.
Interstate Dreams is a must-read for any Texan. Hell, it's a must-read
for anyone. I can't imagine someone picking up this book and not being able to
pull something enjoyable from it. If you don't like it, I promise, there must
be something wrong with you. You must not be from around here...