Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Creepy Canter On The Racetrack

Lord Of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon is set in the world of low grade dirt track racing.Broken down horses race at seedy racetracks where the owners & trainers lead a hand to mouth existence & everybody is trying to make a fast buck. The old man, Medicine Ed, has inhabited this world for his whole life & has seen it all. When Tommy Hansel & his girlfriend Maggie arrive with their horses & their plan Ed knows just how things will pan out.
As Tommy's schemes lead him, and especially Maggie, further & further into a  criminal & dangerous landscape, Ed watches & does what he can to influence events using the dark arts he has accumulated throughout his life.
I am a huge fan of  English racing & fairly familiar with how things work in America so I didn't find it too difficult to follow through the plot, even though the characters are set tightly within the parameters they inhabit &, consequently, talk its language. One note which may be of use to non American readers is that "red" horses are chestnuts. I would also emphasis that the story is set in the 1970s & the racing industry on both sides of the Atlantic is much more humane & welfare centred now.
I wouldn't describe this as the world's most cheerful read, it's one of those plots where the road to disaster is wide & well trodden & the characters duly follow it. I also didn't really like anybody. It's hard to feel empathy for dislikeable characters, especially those who profess to love their horses & then treat them despicably.
I did enjoy the sustained air of dark menace that created a really strong atmosphere with the sense that the characters were being manipulated by forces beyond their perception & control. Would recommend this if you are in the mood for a bit of creepy chill.

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