This is a story about Southern organised crime operators in 1963, the year Kennedy was assassinated. The assumption is that crime boss Carlos Marcello (a real person) hated Kennedy’s attempts to clean up organised crime and was responsible for the hit, and although the author believes that it was down to Lee Harvey Oswald, he also says that that is what Marcello would have liked us to believe. He makes a credible case for his alternate theory.
The charming and amoral Frank Guidry, who has worked for Carlos for years, realises that everyone connected to the job in Dallas is being rubbed out. As the person who delivered the getaway car, and the person tasked with its disposal after, it seems he’s next on the list. Carlos has a long reach, so Frank is hard-pressed as to where, how and to whom he should run. He decides to try Big Ed in Las Vegas. Along the way he meets up with Charlotte, who has taken her life into her hands. She is escaping a drunken husband and terminal boredom in Kentucky, along with her young daughters. To Frank, it’s very strange that he should fall for Charlotte and her girls, but he does, and this of course makes him vulnerable. Hot on the trail is a workmanlike assassin.
Lou Berney aka Don Wilson is a seasoned author who knows how to create characters, set scenes and run plots. Suffice to say that the tension rarely abates and you never have the sense of anything forced or too good to be true. There is certainly quite an amount of violence, but unlike other books, it never comes across as purely gratuitous - just the workings of everyday mobsters. The ending is interesting. Having reached the realms of the angels by truly caring for others, Frank makes a noble decision. Full of interesting period detail.
I’m getting less tolerant of books these days, finding it harder to persevere with stories that require more effort than give pleasure. November Road was one of three I finished this year. I liked the background story (the Kennedy assassination), the central character and the bad guy. I liked best that the writing wasn’t cliched, at least until it got near the end and then it tested me. But few books are perfect. I’ve bought another Lou Berney so it can’t have been too bad.
What if someone happened to come round that corner right now and caught them skulking? Trouble in this business had a way of spreading, just like a cold or the clap. Guidry knew you could catch it from the wrong handshake, an unlucky glance.
The only poor decision was a decision you allowed someone else to make for you.
Charlotte longed to live in a place where it wasn’t so hard to tell the past from the future.
Her favorite movie, as a child, had been The Wizard of Oz, her favorite moment when Dorothy opened the door of her black-and-white farmhouse and stepped into a strange and wonderful land. Lucky Dorothy. Charlotte dipped her brush again and not for the first time imagined a tornado dropping from the sky and blowing her far away, into a world full of color.
My philosophy is that guilt is an unhealthy habit… It’s what other people try to make you feel so you’ll do what they want. But one life is all we ever get, as far as I know. Why give it away?
It is still unclear what actually transpired and how deeply tangled the web had to have been leading up to that awful November day in Dallas in 1963. This book wasn’t about JFK but proposes a possible, highly likely, and often speculated version of events culminating and occurring after his horrific demise with additional storylines that provided a realistic slice of life for those along the path.
The writing was superb and highly engaging. I was riveted to my Kindle and soaked in each well-chosen word like a sponge. I don’t often read this genre and this was my first exposure to the talents of Lou Berney, who is a gifted scribe. His storylines were dynamic, well-crafted, and ingeniously woven with mind prickling details. Yet I felt the true treasure of his creation was his vibrant and oddly endearing characters. I was thoroughly transported and only wished for more, but I’m greedy like that.