RARA-AVIS: God is a Bullet

Mark Sullivan (AnonymeInc@webtv.net)
Mon, 19 Apr 1999 01:09:37 -0400 (EDT) I figured out very quickly that God Is A Bullet was a contemporary
version of The Searchers if rewritten by James Crumley. Substituting
for the Indians in John Ford's classic film is the Manson Family, with
Cyrus standing in for Charlie. Unlike Paul Shrader's Hardcore (another
remake of Searchers), it retains a southwestern setting, but like that
movie it splits the John Wayne character into two, "Bob Whatever" the
judgemental father and Case the streetwise, degraded young woman who
simultaneously helps the father and serves as an object lesson on what
the daughter will become if she is not saved.

As with a lot of polarizing books which people are supposed to either
love or hate, I fell somewhere in the middle. The "shocking" scenes
were not that shocking to me and except for a few calculatingly
disgusting images (Case's memories of being put in the belly of a cow
when she was younger) most of them are barely hinted at, or happen
offstage, only to be mentioned cryptically later on. Although, I
concede someone's earlier complaint about the use of andiron as a verb,
I thought it was generally well-written.

My problem with the book came in the characterization. None of these
characters has much depth, each filling out a stock character and some
not even that. So for me the book lagged somewhat in the middle, during
the long drives in which Case and Bob discuss their philosophies and
slowly come to know and eventually respect and trust each other. Also,
to make Bob's turning away from his religion dramatic, I would have to
have been more convinced of his faith in the first place. He simply
changed from being extremely judgemental of "scum" like Case, to being
extremely judgemental of the hypocrisy of upright citizens. John
Wayne's character was far richer and more complex -- I found his
simultaneous revulsion and joy at finally finding his niece Natalie Wood
far more moving than Bob's less conflicted response, even though Case
had warned him of just that possibility many times.

Still, I would recommend the book to anyone who likes multiple
storyline, lots of action, Stephen Hunter-type books. I'm not a a big
fan of the subgenre, greatly preferring Elmore Leonard, Ross Thomas or
Carl Hiaasen to Hunter (although I think his movie writing is
excellent), but I did enjoy this book.


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