back to REviews
Review by Rachel Kendall

171 pages
Black Coffee Press
ISBN 978-0-615-26110-2
Celluloid Cowboy is a book with a body count. I'm not talking a John Woo scale here. More like a Tarantino or Coen Brothers fare. It has quite a cinematic feel and it certainly has a soundtrack. It's kind of exaggerated, the way action films are - flying bullets, cats from hell, shit-missiles, kidnappings and sword-wielding Mexican midgets. It's a comic book reality. Uber fun.

'I mean Jerry might be smart as a goldfish, but the brother is built like a refrigerator with a head.'

It's want you want from a flick. Heroes and fist fights, gorgeous girls and gun-toting wiggers, crazy friends, dead friends, drug-addled friends, and friends who help you out when you least expect it. It's also about love, and harsh reality and revenge.

'She looks like a wild cat. Most of the sad ones are.'
The celluloid cowboy is the hero of heroes.  He walks cool and he talks cool and he's always quick on the draw. He has an ice-cold composure in a fast-paced world. The protagonist in this book, however, is no John Wayne. He's nothing like that cool. He's more... human. He's your average under-achiever: a red-bloodied, disillusioned, angry, feckless, paranoid member of the literati. He reads Henry Miller and Aldous Huxley, listens to Ani DiFranco and Charles Mingus. His friends are crazy and his girl kicks ass and he will do anything to survive in a world where everyone is out for his blood.

'He reaches out his huge hand and I know I must shake it. In the middle of the shake it turns into this weird secret Hip Hop hand shake. It's kind of like having a pit bull hump your leg. I figure it's just best to let him finish.'

This book is full of kill-or-be-killed scenarios, performed with perfect timing and always with a clever retort. Our guy has one week in which to mend his ways, put the world to rights, become the man he needs to be. He wants to do right, but there are always people getting in the way. In one instance, going in for the kill, crazy-guy Nuno grabs his knife, the narrator grabs a baseball bat: he is flying by the seat of his pants, existing minute by minute, making the most of opportunities and grabbing whatever weapon is closest to hand.

'The hounds come at us.
Nuno takes one.
I get the other.
I'm swinging like my old man always wanted me to.
There are people coming from every angle.
Nuno is a warror.
I'm just playing baseball.'

There's nothing understated about Celluloid Cowboy, but what you see is what you get. This novel is thick with plot. But you also get your money's worth of poetic instances, neat observations and funny sidelines.

'And those fucking hands, Jesus. She's got jazz hands. They're all over the place as she sits there and jabbers. It's all too confusing. A cigarette burning here. A finger pointing there. She looks like she's trying to solve an invisible Rubik's Cube.'

I suggest you get hold of a copy of this book, put your feet up on that $25 Salvation Army sofa, the one with the big yellow flowers and big black stain on the far left cushion, and lose yourself in Rogers' excellent debut.