Re: RARA-AVIS: God is a Bullet: Another opinion

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 09 May 2003

Al wrote:

"According to the author, the book is based on fact."

Personally, I think this is crap in an attempt to start hype, as Sleepers did (by the way, is Sleepers any good? I've never read it, was put off by the false claims it had really happened). As I wrote during the earlier discussion of the book:

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 updated 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.

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.

Back to the present -- I did enjoy the book, but I didn't feel any particular urge to pick up his next one when I saw it. However, keep in mind that I felt much the same way about Dirty White Boys, which I would place in a similar macho sub-genre that doesn't do that much for me.


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