Review of Niceville, by Carsten Stroud


Niceville received some favourable reviews from friends & I’m a bit embarrassed to have found parts of it so nasty, tho’ I immensely enjoyed others. If I’d read a book like this when a 20-something starting his career as a student of satire, I would have put Karstein Shroud (mangling characters’ names is the sort of humour he apparently finds hilarious so I’ll return the favour) in the Jonathan Swift class. But now I am trying to become a better person & prefer Jo Jo Moyes instead. My old self tho’ wallowed in the descriptions of mayhem, especially the account of a sniper with a .50 calibre Barrett blowing away a ‘chopper’ (much of this book is written in a pseudo-military macho dialect in which ‘chopper’ is also a verb meaning ‘to travel by helicopter’) containing a ‘newsgirl’ along with the pilot. (‘Basically the guy exploded, the hydrostatic shock wave blowing through the water-filled tissues of his body @ the speed of sound, like an asteroid slamming into the sea.’) Then the sniper whacks four police officers, each in a different ‘cruiser’!  Altho’ the author lives in Toronto, this book is set in an unnamed region of the American South, & so is woefully lacking in Canadian content. Had I been Karstein’s editor I should have suggested he make the police victims members of the OPP, the ‘newsgirl’ CBC, & the rogue-cop shooter RCMP, so the book could be a contribution to Canadian culture.

I did love the scenes on the Ruelle plantation, where we travel back to the 1920s (no, Glynis could not have given Merle a ‘Colt Commander’ – hadn’t been introduced till 1950 – I still know my Guns & Ammo stuff too.) I also liked the gunfight @ the palliative care centre (my current career lets me spend a lot of time in such places but it’s not so exciting altho’ in the ER I sometimes get to be in a TV cop show but with real cops – who seem much nicer people than the cops in this book). There are some moral & spiritual values in this book – bravery – tho’ how do you worry about being killed in a duel if in fact you are already dead? – combat skills & technical efficiency. One of the characters is supposed to have taken part in the D-day invasion (hardly likely as he is said to be 74 y/o now) in the ‘Big Red One’ (American 1st Infantry Division if you’re not speaking macho-pseudo-military jargon) – the Das Reich division would have been more appropriate for most of these characters.

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