Bar Nights follows the story of Arlo, a man in his late thirties with a wife and kid who one day decides that enough is enough. Sick of his mundane bullshit existence and sick of his cheating wife and slutty daughter, he throws his stuff into his beaten up car and drives away. He keeps on driving until the car gives out on him. Far from home and stuck in the middle of nowhere he convinces the owner of a roadside dive bar to give him a place to stay in exchange for working off his rent doing menial chores around the place. What follows are vignettes of days and nights in Purgatory (the apt name of the bar). Arlo attempts to drink himself numb as he begrudgingly interacts with customers and continually tests the patience of Vance, the bar's owner.
When I first discovered this book and its author, Dave Matthes, I was a little cautious about what I would find. I was concerned that this would turn out to be some weak faux-Bukowski Californication fan fiction type shit. Thankfully that was not the case at all. Matthes can write worth a damn. The prose is a little heavy in places, and a touch convoluted in others, but on the whole it is as smooth as a fine whiskey. Matthes is funny too, and you can have the finest prose in the world, but you can't teach somebody to be funny. Also, FUN FACT: Matthes is just a year older than me and this is his seventh novel. Savage work ethic but the dude makes me feel lazy as fuck.
Fans of Hanks Chinaski and Moody will certainly appreciate the character of Arlo Smith - He is a downbeat, washed out motherfucker who drinks too much and doesn't give a shit what anybody thinks of him. He is not a good guy and definitely isn't 'likeable' but he speaks his mind and you have to respect that. All he really wants is an easy life that consists of good booze and good music and being left alone. Of course, things don't run along too smoothly for poor Arlo as he is dragged through the mire on more than one occasion. He always manages to pull himself out the other side though (I mean, this is a trilogy after all). I am looking forward to Book II, titled Paradise City, and finding out what ridiculous situations Arlo gets himself in to next time.
Grab a copy of Bar Nights from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US).