One mode of noir fiction has fucked up people, doing fucked up things to other fucked up people. Boot Tracks is of this type. Some types of noir, darker crime fiction, and fiction in general have characters that are superficially transgressive at best, and not so secretly aspirational. The author and the reader really loves the characters and kinda want to be them and writing and reading about them is one way to achieve that for a short time. The characters of Boot Tracks have been abused and are damaged. There's nothing cool about them. They are broken.
By the time the reader get to the climax they know that Rankin ain't right, he has two names, gets confused about reality, often mixing up his traumatic memories with the present. It's a recipe for disaster. The reader know that things are going to go wrong (because they always do in this story right?), but they are unprepared for just how horribly wrong it goes. He breaks into the wrong house, has a psychological break from reality while inside, and the reality of his past superimposes itself on on the reality of his present. By the time he kills the man that he was supposed to, and an unexpected woman, he fully believes he is killing his mother and her abusive boyfriend. The quick way that this can be described is nothing compared to the step by step horror of it happening. Let me put the next line as its own paragraph so it will stick, in case anyone decides to give this book a try.
For a crime-ish fiction book is this formally inventive and daring. Again, this is no quick or light read. It's a horror show without the wham, the bam, or the thank you ma'am. It's brutal and in your face and yes, horrific.
Boot Tracks is a minor, imperfect, fucked up cult classic, that isn't for everyone, but is waiting for you, the basement noir crazy who likes something a little different.
I will admit to being curious.
Since we are reaching outside the box of a small sub-genre, how about a movie like The Proposition? Is it a stretch to qualify it? I don't think so.
Final thought. How about women out of prison stories?As I write this before bed I am drawing a blank, but I'd like to know which ones are out there and what the difference is with a women in the lead role. Thoughts?
Spinetingler Magazine and Snubnose Press. He writes about crime fiction and Western films.
****Jed's post-script - The Man Out of Prison series did include a few Woman Out of Prison stories (On the Bricks by Penni Jones, King Cole's American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Phillipe Claudel's I’ve Loved You So Long and John Sayles' Go For Sisters), but absolutely I'm interested in more. Send what you've got.