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The Bayou Trilogy: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and the Ones You Do Paperback – 28 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books; 1 edition (28 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316133655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316133654
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Woodrell comes from a long line of Ozarkers that stretch back before the Civil War. A high school dropout he joined the marine corps at 17. The military and he saw things differently. A period of post military drifting ended up at the University of Kansas and a Michener fellowship at the Iowa Writers School, where he was definitely the odd man out.

He is the author of eight novels including Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, The Ones You Do, Ride With the Devil, Woe To Live On, Give Us A Kiss, Tomato Red and The Death Of Sweet Mister. He lives in West Plains, Missouri.

Critical Acclaim for Daniel Woodrell

"...Daniel Woodrell is a storyteller of bristling imagination and muscular prose, who uses the poetically profane language of the trailerpark to wicked effect..." - Sara Paretsky, Bizarre

"...Daniel Woodrell is stone brilliant ... a bayou Dutch Leonard steeped in rich Louisiana language..." - James Ellroy,

"...Daniel Woodrell is one of the most exciting writers I've discovered in a long time..." - Val McDermid, Manchester Evening News

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on 2 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback
Under the Bright Lights - Being Woodrell's first book, this is very different from what he has become known for, that is his Ozarks fiction of poverty ridden families. "Under the Bright Lights" is the first in a trilogy of hard-boiled Philip Marlow-esque, deep south, southern fiction, police procedural crime stories. Quite a mix of genres there that is a little clumsy for a first time writer, but pulls together nicely by the middle of the book and shows where Woodrell is going to go with his future books. Set in fictional Saint Bruno, the state is never mentioned, but the geographical clues lead me to believe we're looking at Louisiana.

Rene Shade is the main character, a police Detective, once former boxer, who made it to the championship, but lost. Small rather rural town-city where everyone knows everyone Shade can't live down his boxer reputation which has its perks as wells as cons, being an upholder of the law now. This is a mystery where we are first introduced to the killer, his kill and his flight and we then follow the police as they search their way through the clues and intuitions to discover that killer. But as often happens, one murder leads to another and Shade has his hands full. We are sent into the underbelly where we find semi-crooked politicians, porn kings, gangs (the new mafia-type controllers of the city) territorial gang fights and those who get involved in this seedy world. A violet book, sad and brutal. It did take me some time to get into it but once I did I was hooked. The main theme revolves around the French gang versus the Black gang with Shade and the police caught in the middle trying to catch the culprit behind all the killings, not necessarily just the trigger man.

A good book if you enjoy noir mysteries or Southern fiction mystery.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 3 Nov 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Read anything by this author. He is the master of beautiful, terse sentences, even if the words make you recoil. If you can visulize a film flowing in front of you as you read, you know you have a class act, and he is !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 39 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Atmospheric, brash and exciting 26 April 2011
By Shelleyrae - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"This was Frogtown, where the sideburns were longer, the fuses shorter, the skirts higher and expectations lower, and he loved it"

On the steamy and seedy shores of the Louisiana Bayou, Detective Rene Shade walks a fine line between law and loyalty in Saint Bruno where he was born and raised. This trilogy combines three loosely connected stories of crime and justice in the shadows of Frogtown and Pan Fry.
The first story, Under the Bright Lights, has Shade, and his partner How Blanchette, investigating the murder of a city councilman. The Mayor would be happiest if the whole business could be blamed on a trigger happy burglar, but it's not how Shade sees it going. The Councillor's death seems to be linked to a power play in the criminal underbelly that is in danger of triggering a war. Shade chases his suspects right into an armed confrontation in the middle of the Marais du Croche, a swamp beset by lethal cottonmouths and hungry crocodiles.
Muscle of the Wing partners a reluctant Detective Shade with a boyhood friend, Shuggie Zeck, whose business interests are being devalued by a mysterious gang of hold up men. In a town where payback and kickbacks grease the system for politicians and criminals alike, Shade can read between the lines of his Captains orders. This investigation isn't about justice so much as vengeance.
In The Ones You Do (Criminentlies), Detective Shade is brooding over his 90-day suspension when his father, the legendary John X Shade returns to the city with a daughter and annoyed ex associates in tow. This tale features the Shade family, itself a microcosm of the environment they live in. These eccentric characters underscore the themes of loyalty, redemption and belonging that flow through the trilogy.

Daniel Woodrell envelops the reader with his atmospheric depiction of the steaming, soiled bayou and it's unique characters. His style is vividly descriptive, and its a surprising pleasure to immerse yourself in the gritty underbelly of his world. The heat, the sweat, the fear become almost tangible with his eloquent turn of phrase. The language he uses has a cultural lilt, wit and earthiness that defines his characterisation. There is a sense of raw authenticity in Woodrell's examination of the realities of life in Saint Bruno and he captures the indistinct boundaries for those that dwell in the less respectable area's of society masterfully.
Far from being a one dimensional character representing the law, Detective Rene Shade is a skillfully drawn character of principle and personal conflict. Throughout the trilogy, Woodrell reveals the flaws and strengths that define Shade. He is a nuanced character who is engaging and likeable.
Shade is surrounded by family, friends and enemies, the ordinary and the eccentric. Eldest brother Tip, runs a drinking dive named The Catfish while youngest brother, Frankie is a lawyer. Their father, John X Shade is a pool hustling legend who is defined by his absence. Shade has grown up in the town he now polices and his childhood friends are as likely to be his enemies as his informants. Woodrell's characters are all boldly drawn with attention to detail and credibility.
Wonderfully written and an engrossing read, Woodrell has a gift for story and prose. The Bayou Trilogy is an atmospheric, brash and exciting adventure through the nadir of the criminal underbelly in the deep south, and I look forward to reading more by this author.

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
(4.5 stars) "Summer was the mean season along the river." 24 April 2011
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There is no doubt that Woodrell is the iconic voice of rural America, "a backcountry Shakespeare" who captures the fluidity of language, character and lifestyle in novels that ring with authenticity and the daily violence of hardscrabble existence. This trilogy highlights three novels: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing and The Ones You Do, stories connected by place, St. Bruno, Louisiana, the Shade family and other assorted characters. Francois Shade is a rising star in the DA's office; Tip runs the Catfish Bar, a club that caters to the criminal element as well as locals; and Rene, a St. Bruno detective who takes his job seriously. The Shade family skeleton is John X., the paterfamilias who makes an appearance in The Ones You Do, with a reputation as a ne'er-do well and a raft of excuses for a profligate life, best acquainted with abandonment and callous opportunism for all his sly humor: "It ain't the ones you do you regret, but the ones you don't."

The most common (and likable) character in the Bayou Trilogy is Rene Shade, a man who hews to the tenets of law enforcement, dancing around the notion of marriage with his very independent girlfriend. It is Rene, usually referred to as Shade, who walks us through the treacherous territory of colorful local history and a thriving criminal element that is often as violent as it is ill-conceived, a lifestyle bred of opportunity and immediate gratification. The cast is an indelible mix of personalities, from the brutal and venal to the needy and alcohol-hazed, men and women who live near the edge and by their wits. These folks are honed by experience and poverty, the lure of easy money and the high cost of doing business with killers.

It is in the raucous blend of robberies, murders, prison life and the thankless job of law enforcement that the vagaries of human nature emerge. Woodrell writes with wisdom and affection, of a time and place in the American landscape, nuance decidedly irrelevant when staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I almost gave this trilogy five stars, but for the last volume, The Ones You Do, where John X steals the thunder from my favorite character, Rene Shade. I was caught up in the idiosyncratic chaos of St. Bruno's miscreants, reluctant to scale the excitement back for John X's more nostalgic adventures. If you like your contemporary fiction toothy, graphic and raw, Woodrell delivers with a vengeance and the insider knowledge of one born to conflicted loyalties. Luan Gaines/2011.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
If you love Pelecanos 9 May 2011
By exscribe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Some writers have the gift to write dialogue so good you hoot first, then immediately want to write it down or mark up the book with highlighter. When George Pelecanos is really bringing it, whether in his novels or the scripts for the greatest TV show ever, The Wire, his work has that quality. Well, in one man's not so humble opinion, Daniel Woodrell can match up one-on-one with the masters of the genre, and I'm even willing to throw in Leonard and Chandler.
Other reviewers have gone into great detail about the trilogy's plot lines, so there is no reason to go over the same ground. The point I want to make is if you love great characters, some truly idiosyncratic descriptions of places, and, yes, marvelous dialogue, get this book immediately. And what makes it even better, the price is ridiculously low to have such a fine time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Bound: Down on the Bayou 12 Jun 2011
By John Hood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
SunPost Weekly May 19, 2011 | John Hood

Daniel Woodrell Writes the Lives Behind its Crimes

As the Atchafalaya River Basin begins to flood one can't help thinkin' that maybe the authorities have read Daniel Woodrell and come away believin' the folks who live in that swampy stretch of nowhere don't deserve saving as much as everybody else. That's a mean thing to consider, of course, let alone to say right out loud for everyone to hear. But had you just waded through Woodrell's wrenchingly-drenched tales of the Zeus-forsaken place, well, it's a cinch you'd get that notion your own self. Why? Because the people Woodrell writes into being are about as mean and as nasty a bunch that have ever been put to page. And that's saying something indeed.

My cruel supposition is based on a collection called The Bayou Trilogy (Mulholland Books $16.99), which takes three of Woodrell's first four books and puts `em into one heaping helping of unmitigated ugly.

Individually the tales are Under the Bright Lights (1986), Muscle for the Wing (`88) and The Ones You Do (`92). When each was initially released, writers as wily as John D. MacDonald, James Ellroy and Barry Gifford stepped up and sang their respective praises. And they, in turn, were joined by a chorus of critics who couldn't find a thing to criticize about Woodrell's work, but found all kinds of reasons to believe in it.

Since then there have been awards (including a `96 PEN USA for Tomato Red; an `08 Edgar for "Uncle"), and a slew of New York Times Notable Books, among them `06's Winter's Bone, which was made into the same-named flick that earned four Oscar nominations and a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. A few years back director Ang Lee made screen of Woodrell too, turning `87's Woe to Live On into `09's Ride with the Devil. And if that's not enough to put the man among a rather lofty roster of wordslingers, then there's not enough of anything for anyone.

In the Trilogy, Woodrell wrings the neck of a Cajun outpost called St. Bruno, where blood runs thick with consequence and spills even quicker. The, er, heroes of these tall tales are a family fittingly named Shade, who might walk both sides of the law but remain most at home among the lawless. The patriarch, John X., is a rambling man whose beautiful Babushka pool cue rarely gets him outta the trouble his big mouth has asked for. Even when he's nowhere around (which is mostly), Daddy Shade shadows over most everything, be it with an unhealthy mix of legend or an echo of some absurd (but often telling) barroom philosophy. To John X. it's all "stragedy," which will give you some idea of his life's trajectory.

John X.'s ex also has a thing for the felt, and she lords over Ma Blanqui's Pool House with a bewitching boldness that would scare the be-Jesus outta decent folk. Then again, if there ever were any so-called decent folk in St. Bruno (which is doubtful), they'd've left long ago. So it's unlikely the image of Momma Shade's ankle-length locks really bother anyone.

Those potentially terrifying tresses certainly don't bother any one of her three sons. In fact, second son Rene, who lives atop the Pool House, watches the slate gray mess cascade around his momma's ankles nearly every night with nary a disparaging word. Though his seldom being sober enough to talk might have something to do with it too.

When Rene's not drunk, he's usually working on it at his elder brother Tip's Catfish Bar. The Catfish is where all of French Town's mischief makers mingle. Since Rene happens to be a detective, it's possible he considers his sidling up to the bar simply a matter of good police work. It certainly puts him in the thick of many nefarious things. By the same token, pretty much any spot in St. Bruno is thick with nefarious things.

Not to mention nefarious people. St. Bruno's the kinda town where one-legged women wear t-shirts that say "I Can't Help It If I'm Lucky," and where to `have it all' means "having a door jimmy, a friendly fence, and a ten-minute headstart." It's where not having a prison record means a lack of ambition. And not holding a grudge shows a distinct shortage of feelings. Hell, this is the sorta place where even the swamp is Crooked.

In Woodrell's hands however, it's also where "honesty can siphon off a few regrets and resentments if you tap into it." And the bleak and burdened picture he paints of this place and its people can only be considered brutally honest. How else to explain features as unforgiving as a blood feud and creatures less becoming than bad luck?

Naturally there's more to these stories than sheer portraiture -- much more. But I don't dig spoiling surprise by giving away narrative. I will tell you that these are crime stories, which reviewers have taken to calling "country noir." If you know about crime, and you know about noir, then you'll know that in the end nobody makes out good. And I mean nobody.

If you want some idea of how Woodrell reads, the opening of line of Muscle for the Wing will give it to you straight:

"Wishing to avoid any risk of a snub at The Hushed Hill Country Club, the first thing that Emil Jadick shoved through the door was double-barreled and loaded."

And if that doesn't spell the start of something ugly, well, there's no such thing as an alphabet.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I love these books 15 May 2011
By John Augsbury - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
These books by Daniel Woodrell have brought me much enjoyment and as I read these occasionally I would read aloud a passage to my wife because they were magic. Really well written stories that I cannot recommend with greater emphasis.
You can read about the plots in other reviews but you won't be disappointed.
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