Reading my friend Dan Barden’s new book wasn’t altogether pleasant. It was a lot like trying to get around the borderless sprawl of Los Angeles. A contradiction, to say the least. Here you are, cruising under the blinding sunshine of an earthly paradise, and over there is a body under a blanket. Watch out for that sofa thrown onto the street. There’s a mattress in the middle of the freeway. The high-speed lane is stalled, and the off ramp is closed. Beautiful people drive by plumped up on collagen and hair extensions, and under the overpass is an invisible underclass. We must be in the wrong neighborhood. Let’s not get out of the car. I love it.
In the soft hills behind the beaches, everyone is hurting, and hurting each other, and trying to keep from hurting.
Barden wrote about that, in the form of a noir thriller, set in a place I know — Orange County — with people like us, people who have totally messed up and now are trying to do The Next Right Thing. You might think it’s strange for me to read a mystery, at least one with a lot of flying fists and f-words, but it’s no stranger than my real life. I love it.
The Next Right Thing gives us a most unlikable kind of love. It ranges through the blight of addiction, anger, graft, betrayal and decomposing bodies in the basement, all to prove that the ugly underside is the incubator of goodness.
It’s thrilling, for real, and deeply wise, and I’m giving away a brand new copy. Leave a comment by this Friday to enter my giveaway. I’d love it.