Leeds Forum

Book Review Thin Blue Smoke testtestteststarstar

Doug Worgul

pb, Pan, £7.99

Book Review: Thin Blue Smoke

Worgul picks some pretty lofty targets for his debut novel, which drifts and coalesces like the smoke of its title – occasionally beautiful and sometimes an irritation that makes your eyes water.

He takes on the grand American themes of faith, identity, alcohol and human wreckage: pretty bold stuff when you think about the Faulkners, Twains, Irvings and Dodges who have gone before.

Underneath all this rich Americana sauce is simpler fare, though: barbecue, and the lives of those who cook, serve and eat it. It’s an idea that works well some of the time.

Worgul’s a vivid writer with a gift for pathos and wry juxtaposition, and he sure does a mouthwatering line in barbecue writing, but occasionally he overreaches himself and the sections wrestling with faith feel more like preaching than relevant soul-searching. He seems much more at ease with the downhome antics or curmudgeonly love of his grill cooks and serving staff than he does with the preachers, and it shows.

However, he’s a clearly a serious talent who serves up some beautifully seasoned characters, so this promising debut is certainly worth a taste.

Posted on Wednesday 9th June 2010
Russ Thorne

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