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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Monday, April 3, 2006 4:15 pm
The End of the Blood Trail
Posted by: Keir Graff

Well, I finally finished Blood Trail and I’m happy to report that it won me over. Reading the first chapter I was a little afraid that I had entered one of those parallel universes, often found in self-published books, where the author isn’t able to climb out of his head long enough to give his thoughts the needed shape to become a readable story. A lot of the self-published works that arrive in the mail are actually manifestos with the word “novel” printed under the title. Not that Blood Trail is self-published, I’m just saying.

But Cook (who wrote another novel, Graveyard Rules, way back in 1988) had a plan that wasn’t immediately apparent, and I’m glad I kept reading. By the end, his meditations on violence, human nature, and our place in the natural world had me thinking of Terence Malick’s film The Thin Red Line (1998). And while their styles are very different, Cook’s skill at writing about the outdoors made me think at times of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux books. I may have mentioned that I’m from Montana, and while that didn’t give me any insight into the large portion of the book set in Japan, when Ben Tails returns to the Bitterroot Valley at the end of the book, Cook’s descriptions made me just ache with the desire to go home.

Though I always try to approach every book with complete neutrality, like any reader-in fact, because it’s my job to be critical, perhaps more than most readers-I begin to judge books quickly. At Booklist, if we can’t recommend them, we don’t review them (with a few exceptions but more on that later). But I love having my mind changed.

Not that it couldn’t use a few trims here and there.

The other day I was complaining about how heavy galleys can be, which may seem like a petty consideration. If you regularly have to cart a lot of books back and forth, however, a few pounds can mean the difference between having a spring in your step and standing appointment with a chiropractor. Just for the hell of it, I weighed Blood Trail, and it tipped the scales at just shy of five pounds.

No wonder I walk diagonally when I’m not wearing my messenger bag.

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