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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Sunday, September 11

Hell or High Water

I’m not sure what the “high water” was in the movie Hell or High Water, but I certainly know what the “hell” was—West Texas. The opening scenes depicted the desolation of the Texas countryside with a parallel desolation of rust and decay in small west Texas towns. Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) drive into one such dusty town, enter a Midland Trust bank, pistols drawn, ski masks down, screaming at customers and tellers to get on the floor, then taking all the small bills in the drawers, leaving the packets of large bills. A small bank heist, really small. Little by little we’re fed background information about the brothers and their reasons for the unambitious bank takes.
The mother has recently died after a prolonged and probably expensive illness. Tanner, the bad-boy brother, has just gotten out of prison and takes the lead in the robberies. Toby, the good brother, has been caring for his mother and their family ranch. “Ranch” is probably too kind a word for this barren land and rundown house, but it’s their land as it has been for several generations. But the bank, the Midland Trust in town, is about to foreclose on it, which, in the eyes of the Howard boys, is little more than legally stealing their land and their heritage for the oil that’s beneath it. Thus the plan to steal enough money from Midland Trust to pay off to Midland Trust their mother’s reverse mortgage and the back taxes. An irony that tends to make the audience side with the brothers against the evil bank and bankers. U.S. Marshal Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) investigate the robberies, trying to make sense of them. The banter between the soon-to-be-retired marshal and his half-Comanche, half-Mexican sidekick makes up a lot of this film’s charm. Jeff Bridges is still refining his Rooster Cogburnish old codger image, this time doing it with soft-spoken Texas twang, thrust chin, belly over belt. The movie echoes so many other real and fictional twosomes—the James brothers, Bonnie and Clyde, Butch and Sundance, even Thelma and Louise. And we’re also reminded of No Country for Old Men. This west Texas country looks like no country for old or young men or women. We even recall the black and white Texas in The Last Picture Show, with a 22-year-old Jeff Bridges before his move to codgerdom. Chris Pine has come a long and welcome way from his Star Trek Captain Kirk. If only for the new Chris Pine and the old Jeff Bridges, you should see Hell or High Water. I’d have to give it four out of five lone stars.
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