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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding - Each Book Better Than One Before, 2 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: The Bayou Trilogy: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do (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. Word to the sensitive though, the book does contain a lot of racist language (the n-word and equally offensive descriptors for other ethnic groups) which while unpleasant is totally in sync with the times and these particular characters. I've enjoyed the two Ozarks books read so far, but this was interesting and shows the author's raw talent. Will be interested to see how he develops as an author over the course of the next two books in the trilogy. (3/5)

Muscle For the Wing: The second book in this trilogy is so much better than the first that I want to give it a 5 star rating but compared to Woodrell's Ozark books it isn't in the same league so it will have to suffice with a four. A hardboiled, southern, crime noir set in Louisiana, this is the second time we meet Rene Shade, a tough but honest (in his own way) cop, ex-boxer who deals with the riff-raff, bad cops and mobsters of a backwoods town. The first in this series was also Woodrell's first book but by this time the author has ironed out his kinks and this is a fine gritty (and literary) crime novel. Set in the seventies, the book is about crime rather than a mystery as the reader knows more than the detective. Shade is a complicated character and this book has him in a relationship with a woman plus goes into detail about his relationships with his brothers and the people in town he grew up with. We get to know Shade's background and upbringing and while he is involved in a hardcore case the real mystery for the reader to contemplate is why Shade became a cop instead of a criminal. A very fast read that had me immersed. (4/5)

The Ones You Do: This is the last book in the Bayou Trilogy and in Woodrell's career up to this point he had only written one book so far that was not in this series, A Woe to Live On, an historical fiction western set during the Civil War. Since I've read all these books and others I feel confidant in saying this was Woodrell's first book that, while not set in the Ozarks, does have the classic southern Gothic noir feel of his later more famous titles. Rene Shade, cop, was the star of the first two books but he is only a minor character in the finale. Rene is on suspension and his future is left in limbo yet as a reader one can try to determine what they think he will do. He is a complex character who loves being a policeman, is bound by honour both at work and home and this is why he may no longer be able to go back to being a policeman. The main character of this book is John X. Shade, long time deadbeat father of the Shade brothers. The 70yo man comes back home for the first time since he left his little family, with him is his 14yo daughter after his 27yo (I think) wife leaves him holding the bag for her crime of stealing a local kingpin's money. John knows the man will be after him so he makes a desperate attempt to lose him and set his life to rights at the same time. A wonderful character study of a classic type of man. Born poor, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid who had one thing going for him (his looks), he causes a storm with his antics, gets two girls pregnant at the same time so marries the youngest, then lives the life of a professional gambler and womanizer, leaving discarded people along the way. When he comes back to St. Bruno he has to face up to his past, while his past is haunted by his presence and his present runs him down. A startling ending and by far the best book in the trilogy. Woodrell's writing is ripe at this point for his Ozark themed books which would follow this one. (5/5)
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read Daniel Woodrell, 3 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The Bayou Trilogy: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 17 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Bayou Trilogy: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do (Paperback)
Excellent
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