Andrew Battershill - A darkly humorous novel about a boxer with some fight in him. A strange mix of poetic license, brusque humor, and simmering violence that may appeal to crime and mystery fans looking for something a little more out there and give a little kick to readers with a philosophical bent.
Andrew Battershill, Pillow, Coach House Books, 2015.
read it at Google Books
Chocolate Milk for Miles!
Most of the things Pillow really liked to do were obviously morally wrong. He wasn't an idiot; clearly it was wrong to punch people in the face for money. But there had been an art to it, and it had been thrilling and thoughtful for him. The zoo was also evil, a jail for animals who'd committed no crimes, but he just loved it. The way Pillow figured it, love wasn't about goodness, it wasn't about being right, loving the very best person, having the most ethical fun. Love was about being alone and making some decisions.
Pillow loves animals. Especially giraffes. That’s why he chooses the zoo for the drug drop-offs he does as a low-level enforcer for the mob. Which happens to be run by André Breton and the Surrealists, like Gwynn Apollinaire, Louise Aragon and Georges Bataille.
A gentle soul, Pillow doesn’t love his life of crime. But he isn’t cut out for much else, what with all the punches to the head he took as a professional boxer. And now that he’s accidentally but sort of happily knocked up his neighbour, Emily, he wants to get out and go straight. So when an antique-coin heist goes awry, Pillow sees his chance to make one last big score. But it’s hard to outwit a Surrealist, especially when you can’t always think so clearly. He soon finds himself kneedeep in murder and morphine, kidnapping a pseudo-priest and doing some fancy footwork around a pair of corrupt cops.
With a dark wink of the teeth and a wet fish to the heart, Pillow is literary crime fiction that punches above its weight.
'Wildly effervescent. The dialogue, the pacing, the plot: it sizzles, it sparkles. Pillow is a hilarious, humane, fearsomely original novel by a young novelist – this Andrew Battershill; this wet-behind-the-ears rookie! - who writes with such skill and daring that you'd think this was his tenth book rather than his debut.' – Craig Davidson
A punch-drunk enforcer for a small-time crime syndicate tries to pull off a getaway score when his on-again, off-again girlfriend gets pregnant.
Battershill, co-founder of the literary indie Dragnet Magazine, tries to paint his debut novel with a patina of literary affectation that it really doesn’t need given the quality of its storytelling and the author’s offbeat sense of humor. At its heart, it’s a coy crime novel about a thug named Pete, known to friends and foes alike as Pillow. The former boxer has taken way too many blows to the head, but he still has a gentle soul, levying his affections on animals in the zoo. But Pillow’s condition has forced him to retire in his mid-30s to eke out an existence as muscle for crime boss André Breton. (Those of you with a classical education just pricked up your ears, recognizing that Pillow’s eccentric boss is named and apparently modeled after the founder of French surrealism). “Ah Pillow, adding that touch of kindness to sweeten the scene,” Breton says. “You are a man of the living theatre. An idiot savant of pathos.” Some of the book’s other villains include the morphine addict Antonin Artaud (modeled on the French dramatist), Louise Aragon (after the poet Louis Aragon), and characters based on transgressive writer Georges Bataille and cubism defender Guillaume Apollinaire. When a coin exchange guarded by Pillow goes wrong, Louise is killed and the beleaguered boxer is partnered up with one of Breton’s hired killers to find the coins. But when Pillow’s whimsical girlfriend, Emily, turns up pregnant, Pillow decides to play both sides against the middle in a desperate play to get away clean with both Emily and the coins. It’s a strange mix of poetic license, brusque humor, and simmering violence that may appeal to crime and mystery fans looking for something a little more out there and give a little kick to readers with a philosophical bent.
A darkly humorous novel about a boxer with some fight in him. - Kirkus Reviews
Andrew Battershill is a writer and teacher currently living in Columbus, Ohio. A graduate of the University of Toronto's MA in creative writing program, he was the fiction editor and co-founder of Dragnet Magazine.