I’m just back from BEA-Book Expo America-held in New York each year, where publishers push their Fall books and booksellers and librarians wander the aisles like drunk sailors on shore leave. It’s always a good time. I meet up with old friends, eat some good food, and spend time looking at books.
One of the reasons I love this trip is the four hour train ride down from Boston. Nothing is more civilized than showing up 20 minutes before departure, picking up your ticket, and waiting for the lovely sign to click up your gate number. You board, pick a seat on the left side of the train so you can see the oceanside landscape once you hit the coast. And you get four hours of uninterrupted reading time. I chose The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt, a much hyped western from Ecco out this month.
Set against the California Gold Rush, the famed hitmen Eli and Charlie Sisters travel across the frontier from Oregon to San Francisco on a contract from a man known only as The Commodore. Their journey is a little like the Odyssey, as the brothers encounter a variety of startling people during their search. Things turn out differently when they finally find their target. Narrated by the younger brother Eli, the cowboy tropes fall away with often humorous asides. As you learn how the pair became killers, the illusion of the strong cowboy killer gives way to reveal men damaged by circumstances. Dewitt’s nuanced writing, in particular the cadence of the characters’ speech, make this a fantastic read.