On the Road with Del & Louise by Art Taylor is a collection of six short stories that tell the tale of two criminal lovers trying to start a new life (available September 15, 2015).
It’s no secret that I am a short mystery fiction addict. I am also a dedicated mystery novel fan. So you can imagine the joy (be still my heart!) when I learned that one of my favorite short story writers, Agatha, Macavity and Derringer Award Winner Art Taylor has written a novel in—TA DA!—short story format. That is, Art took two fabulous characters and wrote a series of linked stories giving the reader a fabulous vision what life is like On the Road with Del and Louise.
So first, let’s see how Del meets Louise. She is working in a 7-Eleven and Del comes in to rob the place, wearing a ski mask and carrying a pistol.
“You know, I said, as I bent down for a bag to put his money in. “You have picked the one solitary hours that I’m alone in the store, between the time that Pete has to head home for his mom’s curfew and the time our night manager strolls in for his midnight to six.”
“I know. I’ve been watching you.” Then there was a nervous catch in his voice. “Not in a bad way, I mean. Not voyeuristically.” He enunciated both that word and the next. “Surveillance, you know. I’m not a pervert.”
With that remarkable introduction, Louise decides to tell Del her phone number, saying it twice so he’ll remember. She is way too smart to pass him a note that would be filmed by the security camera. And then she waits for him to call. Call he does. The next thing we know, Louise has moved into Del’s mobile home. And that is when the story really begins. While Louise isn’t unhappy, she does start to lean towards bored and it doesn’t help that her mama is worried that the time might come when her little girl might be not be treated nicely by Del when the same-old, same-old sets in. Just listen to mama nagging Louise, probably demanding things for her daughter that she wanted for herself.
“I thought you were going to start a new life,” she said, a different kind of disappointment in her voice then. “You could watch the tube and drink beer anywhere. You could date a loser here if that’s all you’re doing.”
And it may be that mama’s nagging is what gets Del and Louise on the road, looking for a new life and heading to visit mama. Sad to say a visit to Del’s sister Brenda just pushes Del and Louise closer to the life of crime they are really, sort of, trying to avoid. So it’s on the road again. And again. At each stop along the way Del and Louise face a situation, some hilariously funny, some hauntingly sad, but each instance forces them closer to maturity and intimacy.
Somewhere in the middle of their journey Louise explains her view of life:
And really, if you want a happy ending, just skip ahead. I promise there’s better times down the road.But for me, this story is the truth and it’s real and sometimes you need to see yourself, own up to what you’ve done—not just accept it but embrace it.
There are six short stories in this novel. Each one tells a part of Del and Louise’s story and often brings in other unforgettable characters, because making the reader connect to the characters is clearly Taylor’s forte. Louise as narrator is a masterful stroke as we can hear how much she wants a better, stronger, different life and through all the chaos, criminal activity and occasional danger, she wants it with Del. I was absolutely enchanted by my cross country trip with Del and Louise and you will be too.
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Agatha Award winning novelist Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the beachside Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series including Well Read, Then Dead and Caught Read-Handed. Her web address is www.terriefarleymoran.com.