Sunday, November 07, 2010


By Neal Barrett, Jr.

At Armadillo Con 2005 in Austin, Texas, I listened to a panel on “The Weird Tale”. Someone defined that type of story as something Neal Barrett, Jr. wrote. Well, fair enough.

Interstate Dreams follows Dreamer, a slacker war-vet who lives in Austin. He sells tropical fish and is a professional thief (thanks to a bullet stuck in his head that gives him surreal, prophetic dreams and allows him to circumvent locks and alarms). Alas, people from Houston intrude, the slimy scientist/white-collar crook Halloran Horn, millionaire Gus Brauweiler, and gangster Mako Binder.

They prove less of a strain on Dreamer than the mysterious, angelic, infinitely desirable hitchhiker he just saw. It’s not so much the girl as the way Dreamer’s lust is all too apparent to his ambitious lawyer-girlfriend, Eileen.

This is really the tip of the iceberg. There is enough stuff here to make about six novels. Any sane, sensible, NY Times bestseller author would have filled out a 627 pager and have gotten an advance on the sequel. Barrett fits it all into 225 pages, and you know what, it never feels forced. Much of this surreal Austin-Houston landscape zips by like scenery on the interstate, glimpsed but impossible to get at, but it doesn’t get dull or sluggish. Maybe that’s why Barrett gets published by MoJo Press and is widely respected by other writers, rather than being a bestseller wallowing in bloated self-indulgence. Just a theory.
-Dave Hardy


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