In Gillespie Lamb’s, The Junkyard Dick, published by Black Rose Writing, in August 2022, the town, as it is, Uvalde, Texas, is both described and explored. Its main character is a smart and hard worker, as exhibited by his explanations of when and how he buys certain objects for this junkyard, ways in which some expenses are just investments that multiply that by multiple times, and that he has a history of helping out the police. So, the drama is configured as a stage for work ethic, sticking to it, and community care so Tak Sweedner can once again help and be helped in the story.
That Sweedner is a hard worker is important. He is not a lazy junk collector, but is a smart purveyor of used objects that are so very useful to those who need them and that can result in handsome prices and income for the junkyard owner. In a guest post on Westveil Publishing’s site, Lamb says this about hard work as it affects writers:
I have come to suspect that authors don’t need to work smarter. We need to work harder. Literally. Walk away from the desk and get a “real job” that makes our backs ache and brings bruising and small cuts—and perspective. I’ve mostly worked in the white-collar world my adult life, but not exclusively. ¶ Along the way, I built houses, served Sonic burgers, and dug graves. I will spare you about the work being ennobling. It was just work. I might have been a prince of a guy hammering together 2X4s and lifting walls, but mostly I was tired when five o’clock came.Gillespie Lamb. “Author Guest Post with Gillespie Lamb, The Junkyard Dick.” Westveil Publishing blog. 2022-09-08. (Accessed 2022-10-02)
Lamb is not the first author to say this, but it does point out a serious culture-of-thought element in our society, just what is a writer, and should he or she get trained to be write? Lamb has worked in all kinds of environments and his work comes is affected by his living through various circumstances. I don’t remember the quote, exactly, it is kinda long, but Norman Mailer once said, or asked, where all the [insert trade here] authors are. He was looking at the same question that Lamb makes in that guest blog post. Why should authors always go to school to read the great books and then write in a way to conforms their writing to an academic standard. The idea is not that education is bad or that writing MFAs and creative writing workshops are bad, but that they can only do what they can do. Words and writing can also grow from lived experience and the practice of describing and evoking something from that experience that is not the same as academic circles.
This is the type pf character Sweedner is. He works hard and gets dirty. Also, he is his own boss, which means he can ‘schedule’ himself able to follow clues and hunches to their conclusions. Like all crime novels, our hero does not get everything right, but through his involvement with the people affected by the murder referenced at the beginning of the book, and his engagement with those in the community, in a real way, he is able to put together clues about certain people that may be involved with the crime.
Now, this can also get a man in trouble, as one of those people he involves himself with, I won’t say which one…is tied up with the crime and related dependencies. The crime itself is straightforward, as murders in crime novels go, but the thing it was done intended to cover up, was brilliantly unexpected, some may even say exotic. I was surprised by the way the big regional history and artistic features of the ‘treasure behind the crime’ fit into the story. I was excited and yet accepting at the same time.
Others have written about how Lamb’s journalism background and experiences affect his writing. I could not agree more. I don’t believe it is just style either. If the comment above about hard work means something, then we have to say that the weight of the world and its reality are shown in the attention given to description by the author. I am not talking about a Marcel Proust style eight pages of description either, but a fast moving description that is completely appropriate for the story, its characters, and the community in which it takes place. Tak Sweedner wants justice to win out. So do the readers. The style, I think, is thus not un-related to the work by characters in the novel, reflective of Lamb’s own resume.
One thing: If Tak Sweedner has an enjoyment in criminal investigation, and has helped out again, one would think another book about the man could be forthcoming, a series of sorts about this junkyard detective, of which this ‘self-titled’ book is just Book Number One. We shall see. I would certainly read it with pleasure to see where else he has been or will go.
You can purchase it wherever books are sold. You can can search Indiebound for local book stores, Barnes and Noble carries it, as does Books a Million, as well as Amazon (which has the paperback and the Kindle Editions available).
Check it out. Ok, back to work I go.