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The Speed Queen ()

Granta Top 20 Authors Under 40

    I don't know if Lamont had a plan, or Natalie, but I didn't.  I guess we were just hoping things
    would go our way.  We had no money, Lamont was shot, and we'd been awake for two days.
    The only thing going for us was we had a fast car and a good-sized bag of crank.  We were
    dumb to think that might be enough.
                                                        -Marjorie "The Speed Queen" Standiford

This is Marjorie's story, as dictated to a tape recorder, on Death Row in an Oklahoma prison.  She's the most notorious thrill killer in America, but before she's put to death for the murder of 12 people, she wants to tell her side of the story and, in particular, she wants to answer the "lies" in Natalie's best selling account of their crime spree.  She's even found the perfect vehicle to guarantee that the world hears her story, she's chosen Stephen King to tell it.

What follows is a funny, frightening, disingenuous tale of sex and drugs and fast food and muscle cars and way too many Diet Pepsis, as Marjorie, her husband Lamont, their baby  and their lover Natalie descend into a speed driven paranoid night of violence.  Meanwhile, not content merely giving her version of events, she provides a running comparison of parts of her story & elements of King's novels and offers him advice on how to improve upon her story when he pens the intended roman a clef.

Most of the folks I know will need to know little more than that the two epigraphs that precede the story are from James M. Cain's Double Indemnity and Golden Earring's Radar Love--hell, I was ready to recommend it based on that alone.  But the novel itself is a blistering, funny, mesmerizing, horrifying read.  It is the story that Oliver Stone was trying to tell in Natural Born Killers; a nearly cinematic 90's noir set at the wicked intersection of Pop Culture and the Media Age.  Most highly recommended.


Grade: (A+)


Book-related and General Links:
   -The Works of Stewart O'Nan
    -Audio of Short Story & excerpt from this novel (from Star Tribune)
   -ESSAY : The Lost World of Richard Yates :  How the great writer of the Age of Anxiety disappeared from print. (Stewart O'Nan, Boston Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Danger Tree by David Macfarlane (Stewart O'Nan, Atlantic Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz (Stewart O'Nan, San Francisco Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of George Saunders: Pastoralia (Stewart O'Nan, Boston Review)
    -REVIEW : of Andrew Huebner: American by Blood  (Stewart O'Nan, Boston Review)
    -INTERVIEW: Stewart O'Nan novelist (1997)(Beatrice)
    -INTERVIEW : with Stewart O'Nan (Tim Higgins, ForeW0rd)
    -Stewart O'Nan Author Page (Bold Type)
    -Vocabulary Reflecting One Side of American Culture in Stewart OíNanís Speed Queen  (Term Paper by Piia Holopainen)
    -The Works of Stewart O'Nan (Official Page)
    -The Curse of O'Nan: new novel explores the landscape of affliction (Chris Wright, Boston Phoenix)
    -AUDIO: Stewart O'Nan reads two unpublished short stories, "Summer of '77" and "Kid Lazarus."
    -REVIEW : of  The Speed Queen by Stewart O'Nan  (Peter McCarthy, Boston Review)
    -REVIEW: of A PRAYER FOR THE DYING, by Stewart O'Nan The curse of O'Nan:  In his new novel, Stewart O'Nan explores the landscape of affliction (Chris Wright, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of A PRAYER FOR THE DYING: A Novel by Stewart O'Nan (Judy Gigstad, Book Reporter)
    -REVIEW : of A Prayer for the Dying, by Stewart O'Nan  (Randall Holdridge, Tucson Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of THE CIRCUS FIRE By Stewart O'Nan (David Cowan, Chicago Tribune)
    -REVIEW : of EVERYDAY PEOPLE by Stewart O'Nan (Josette Kurey, Book Reporter)
    -REVIEW : of  A World Away by Stewart O'Nan (Carey Harrison, SF Chronicle)