Cover image for Watch me go
Title:
Watch me go
Author:
Wisniewski, Mark S., 1958-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : G. P. Putnam's Sons, [2015]
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780399172120
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"A fabulous noir."--Daniel Woodrell

"Thoughtful, complex and compassionate."--Dan Chaon

"Mark Wisniewski is a damn good writer."--Ben Fountain

Winter's Bone meets The Wire in this edgy, soulful meditation on the meaning of love, the injustices of hate, and the power of hope.

Douglas "Deesh" Sharp has managed to stay out of trouble living in the Bronx, paying his rent by hauling junk for cash. But on the morning Deesh and two pals head upstate to dispose of a sealed oil drum whose contents smell and weigh enough to contain a human corpse, he becomes mixed up in a serious crime. When his plans for escape spiral terribly out of control, Deesh quickly finds himself a victim of betrayal--and the prime suspect in the murders of three white men.

When Jan, a young jockey from the gritty underworld of the Finger Lakes racetrack breaks her silence about gambling and organized crime, Deesh learns how the story of her past might, against all odds, free him from a life behind bars.

Interweaving Deesh's and Jan's gripping narratives, Watch Me Go is a wonderfully insightful work that examines how we love, leave, lose, redeem, and strive for justice. At once compulsively readable, thought-provoking, and complex, it is a suspenseful, compassionate meditation on the power of love and the injustices of hate.


Author Notes

Mark Wisniewski 's fiction has been published in The Best American Short Stories, The Southern Review, Antioch Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review . His stories have won a Pushcart Prize and a Tobias Wolff Award, and numerous fellowships in fiction. He lives with his wife on a lake in upstate New York.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The novel starts out wonderfully raw and gritty. Douglas Sharp Deesh to intimates is a hard-luck sort who gets hired to pick up and dump a sealed oil drum. It's heavy. It smells goshawful, and we listen in as Deesh tries to convince his public defender that he didn't kill who's inside. But then the author pulls the first of his puzzling switches, and we're in a swoony love story. Woman jockey loves horse handler, detailed in lengthy scenes that may strike many as writing exercises. Blessedly, we're soon back to Deesh. His attempts to make a hostage out of an embittered literature professor who was denied tenure are howlingly funny. Then it's the love story again, whose aim is as puzzling as the flip title. Watch who go where? Why? The lovebirds seem to be made totally of language, and their responses to each other are essayish, at a second remove for all the undeniably fine writing. The two narrative lines finally come together, and the lovers' tale dominates. That's too bad. It gets in Deesh's way.--Crinklaw, Don Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In the prologue of this outstanding crime novel from Pushcart Prize-winner Wisniewski (Stand Up, Look Good), Douglas "Deesh" Sharp, an African-American who has been charged with multiple murders, receives an unexpected visitor in the Bronx jail where he's being held. Jan Price, an attractive white woman, is willing to help exonerate him of the murder of jockey Tom Corcoran, whom Jan knew personally, if Deesh can convince her that he's also innocent of killing two other people. Wisniewski deftly alternates perspectives and narrative threads, starting with Deesh's account of how he wound up incarcerated. Deesh agrees to join two friends on a job in upstate New York to haul away some junk that turns out to be a highly suspicious oil drum. Deesh is sure from the outset that the drum contains a corpse. The lure of money overcomes his fears, and reading what follows is like watching a slow-motion train wreck. Jan's parts of the story, about her experiences with the Corcoran family, are also downbeat, just what fans of literate and nuanced daylight noir will relish. Agent: Noah Ballard, Curtis Brown. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Excerpts

Excerpts

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof*** Copyright ©2015 Mark Wisniewski Prologue Among Douglas "Deesh" Sharp 's well-guarded thoughts was the idea that his public defender, Lawrence Gerelli, might win more often if he'd now and then iron a shirt. Worse, Gerelli had a tendency to show his hand by letting himself go sour-faced, and here Gerelli was, doing that again as he sat across the table in the small white room and said, "Mostly, Mr. Sharp? You have a belief problem." "As in you don't believe me?" Deesh asked. "As in we need twelve jurors to believe you, and they're going to be hard to find." "So you're saying plea bargain." "The plea bargaining's already begun, Mr. Sharp. The prosecution here in the Bronx is talking about sending you back to Pennsylvania--where, unlike here, people are still relatively comfortable with the death penalty." And there was that sour face again, and Deesh found himself leaning back in his folding chair to say, "Man, nobody gets to twelve without first having two in this room." Gerelli began gathering his notes and electronics. "I'm late for an arraignment," he said. He snapped closed and yanked up his briefcase. "You want life here in New York, Mr. Sharp, just say the word and I'll bust my ass to get that for you." He glared at Deesh, who glared back. "You still want to go for broke, we'll talk about building cases next time." He walked out, and the door swung closed. And right away, Deesh felt less alone. He flattened his hands beside the bolted steel ring his wrists were cuffed to. He appreciated this small white room, its cleanliness and brightness, the safety implied by its particular silence. Then, from behind the room's white door, there was a cough. And a knock. The door opened, and just behind the guard stood someone short, so this wasn't who Deesh had hoped--it wasn't his son--and the guard stepped aside and Deesh saw the face, a woman's face, a way-too-fine, almost dollish face on a very short, white, deeply suntanned young woman whose curves struck Deesh as impossibly sweet, too. "Who the hell is this?" he asked the guard. "She signed in," the guard said. The cop's wife? Deesh thought, but the woman eyed the handcuffs so intently there was no way she hung with cops. Deesh felt himself holding his breath while she stood behind the chair Gerelli had left, braced as if she were set to run off if need be. "So you're the infamous Deesh," she said, in her own kind of sadness. "All day." "I'm Jan Price." "Means nothing to me." "I knew Tom Corcoran personally," she said, as if this explained everything. "The jockey," she added. "And there are things about his gambling I can testify about." Bullshit, Deesh wanted to say, but she looked away quickly, at one of the bright white walls, brow knitted, maybe about to cry, maybe not. She said, "But I need to know you didn't kill those other two guys." She kept on looking at that wall. "I didn't kill anyone," Deesh said, and he knew, given his experience with whites this beautiful, that right about now was when the ugliness in her would show. "Then why are you in here?" she asked. Her eyes met his, but he was already shaking his head, as if to suggest that, no, he would not have this conversation, though now here he was, also asking, "Isn't that obvious?" And she said, "No." He raised a cuffed forearm, pointed at it best he could. "But Deesh," she said, "you're not the only black guy out there. I mean, for some reason, they arrested you . And what's eating me up is that I happen to know that, when it comes to Tom Corcoran, you're as innocent as a colt learning to walk. But if you're a killer anyway, why should I help you?" And it was only now that Deesh realized he could actually care about this woman--in that same solid way he'd once cared about his state champion teammates--because here he was, saying to her, "Ms. Price, you're asking me to tell you a very long story." And she said, "Not necessarily, Deesh. I'm asking you to tell me the truth." 1 DEESH Nine times out of ten it's a woman who calls Bark to answer his classified ad in the Westchester Pennysaver , and sometimes when we pull up to her yard in his pickup, she's outside waiting for us. Sometimes she even has something inside for us to eat, which, besides needing money, is why James and I never ask Bark if he wants our help. We just get in his truck and hope he lets us go. On the morning he drives us north of Poughkeepsie, though, no woman, or anyone, is waiting outside. Maybe this has to do with the five hundred dollars this woman offered--she doesn't feel the need to be friendly beyond that. Or maybe she's with the junk that needs to be hauled. Anyway Bark pulls off the country road into her driveway, which drops through her uncut lawn toward her shabby yellow house, and we all get out, Bark headed to knock on her front door. "Hey," I hear from the left-hand side of the house, and I turn but see no one. "Down here," the voice calls, and there, crouched near an open crawl space hole, is a woman about as dark as me, maybe five years older. "Over here, Bark," I shout, and Bark makes his way down the porch, then over to her, James and I lagging behind to let her know he's boss. "I took care of the rest myself," she says, and Bark kneels beside her, then pokes his head and a good half of him into the crawl space. He stays in there for a while, making sure, I figure, that we can do what needs doing. Then he's back out, and he stands, slapping dirt off his knees. "Just that oil drum?" he says. "Yeah," she says. "I thought you said there was a bunch of stuff," he says. "No," she says. "Just that." "What's in it?" he asks. "I have no idea," she says, but she's scratching her arm and keeps scratching it; if she's not flat-out lying, she's more than a little nervous. "Because the thing is," Bark says, "I can't just take a drum like that to a dump without them asking what's inside." "Then don't take it to a dump," she says. "Just, you know, get rid of it." Bark grabs his unshaven jaw, considering. Probably he's stumped by why a sister is living more than an hour north of the city; plus it doesn't make much sense that any woman living in a house this shabby could have five hundred dollars, let alone give it to us to haul off a drum with nothing bad in it. It crosses my mind this woman loves some guy who's given her five hundred to get rid of the drum, some dude, maybe a white one, that she has it bad for and cheated with--and that inside the drum is this man's wife. But all kinds of things are crossing my mind, including how I could use five hundred dollars divided by three. "How 'bout a thousand?" the woman says. Here's where all of us, including her, gaze off at her uncut lawn, the dandelions and weeds in it, some of them pretty enough to call flowers. We gaze our separate ways for a long time, letting whatever truth of what's going on sink into us while we play as if it isn't, and I feel my guts work their way higher toward my lungs, threatening to stay there if Bark agrees. But there's a lot I could do with my share of a thousand, especially since I'm used to walking away from these jobs with fifty at most. I could eat more than apples and white bread and ham. I could start saving for a truck of my own-- to haul things for pay myself. Then, to the woman, Bark says, "In cash?" "As soon as that drum's in your truck," she says. Bark glances at James, who nods. "Deesh?" Bark asks me, and I know he's working me over with his eyes, using them to try to convince me in their I-don't-care-either-way manner, but what I'm watching is the woman's feet, which are the tiniest bit pigeon-toed. They are also perfectly still, which could mean she's no longer nervous, but my eyes, I know, are avoiding her fingers and arms. Still, the sight of those pigeon-toed feet has me giving her the benefit of the doubt, maybe because I once had it bad--really bad--for someone who stood like that. "Why not?" I answer. I haven't, I tell myself, actually said yes, but when I look up, James is following Bark into the crawl space, the woman checking me out. "Sure appreciate it," she says, in the flat way of someone who's been with enough men to deal with us no problem. But now she's scratching her collarbone--over and over she's scratching it, without one bug bite on her. There's death in that drum, I think, but with her pigeon-toed feet aimed at me, I fall even more in love. Then she walks off, toward a creek behind her house, and it hits me that if I want my share of the thousand, I should get my ass in that crawl space, since the actual removal of the drum might take but five minutes--and the last thing I need is Bark and James saying I don't deserve a cent. Then I realize that if I don't take a cent I might not be guilty of any crime that's going on here. But wisdom like that helps only if you're not desperate for cash, plus I need to be in Bark 's truck to get home, and even before I'm done thinking all this I'm on my hands and knees, my head brushing morning glory vines, then on its way through the square opening in the foundation of the woman's house. It's quiet in there, and it stinks. James and Bark are on their bellies, snaking their way over damp dirt and rocks toward the drum, which lies on its side in the far corner. With the thousand in mind, I work myself toward them, trying to get a hand on the drum when they do--but Bark yells, "We got it, Deesh." "What are you saying?" I ask. "I'm saying this is a two-man job, so back off." "You trying to cut me out of my share." "No. It's just there ain't enough room for all three of us if we want to get this thing past us." "So what do you want me to do?" Bark humps up his backside, reaches into a front pocket, pulls out his keys, tosses them toward me. "Pull the truck down the driveway," he says. His hands dig dirt away from the drum. "As close to the house as you can," he says. "Bark," I say. "I haven't driven in fifteen years." "You'll remember," he says. "Just start it, put it in gear, and steer so you don't hit nothing." "Okay," I say, though Bark 's confidence in me has taken away the little I have in myself. I used to have confidence--gold confidence--but the older I get, I have less. Still, I back myself out of the crawl space, pretend the woman isn't watching as I jog up the driveway to Bark's truck, hop inside it, start it, put it in drive and let it roll down there. Steering is easy, but when I put on the brake, I about fly through the windshield. The woman, still near the creek, has her arms folded now, and again she's checking me out. There's that kind of thing between us, that curiosity about each other we'd ruin with conversation, and I want to make love to her bad. Now Bark and James are yanking the drum top first through the hole in her foundation; the drum is too wide to roll out. They struggle like hungry playground kids--whatever's in that thing is dumb heavy. Wind blows past my face, the woman now picking a weed's blue f lower from between pebbles beside the creek. It's her husband in the drum, I think. She got carried away in an argument over nothing and the thousand is all they ever saved. "Deesh," Bark calls to me. "Gonna help us or not?" I nod, toss him his keys, which he catches like it's the old days. I walk toward him and James, and all three of us roll the drum to the driveway, flattening a strip of knee-high grass, acting like we haul mystery drums every day. This one is the rusted old orange you'd expect, but its new yellow lid has barely a scratch or a smudge on it, and as we team up near Bark 's tailgate and lift on the count of three, we take extra care to keep the lid on. Dead weight, I think as we lower the works onto the bed. If this isn't a corpse, she would have said so. 2 Jan What I would tell a jury from the get-go, Deesh, is that pretty much all of the horse folk you find at the Finger Lakes racetrack, not just the Corcorans, have long lived and breathed horseracing. For instance for pretty much all of my twenty-two years, certainly ever since I was the gossiped-about, shabbily dressed girl born to the reticent single mother in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, my dream had been to ride the fastest of thoroughbreds in upstate New York, seeing as that's what my father did when he was still alive. A jury would also need to know that thoroughbred racing often comes down to the keeping and telling of secrets. Matter of fact, for my entire life--until just a few months ago--all my mother had ever told me about my father's death was that it happened three weeks before I was born, and that he had drowned well upstate from here, in a tangle of sun-bleached weeds near a shoreline owned by Tom Corcoran and his wife, Colleen. And that because of all this we were poor to the point that we should be grateful for her job working the counter at the Rexall on Main in Pine Bluff. See, it wasn't until the night before my mother and I left Arkansas to head for that lake--because the Rexall was forced to close thanks to a Walmart Supercenter two miles up Main--that she let me in on details beyond those. Like how when the search party of sheriffs and wardens and divers gaffed my father's corpse, one of his legs was wrapped twice with thick black fish line leading to a huge prehistoric-looking fish. Like how this fish was a muskellunge-- or, as people upstate would put it, a "muskie." How this particular muskie was a monster, easily six feet long. How this muskie then lay in a sheriff 's outboard like guilt in the guts of a killer, and then, after the sheriff took photos, was dropped into the lake for dead by my mother, who, as soon as she headed off toward the Corcorans' house, heard a splash and turned--only to see the muskie's tail propel it back into those sun-bleached weeds. "It was like that fish was death itself saying 'See y'all later' " was how my mother put it, her point, I figured, being that I should remember that I, too, will die, that therefore I should follow her footsteps when it comes to things like religion and sticking to the straight and narrow. But that's getting more into me and my mother rather than Tom Corcoran's death. What I'm trying to say is that people out there need to know that tragic death and gruesome injuries and need of all sorts (not just financial) and gambling and welshing and debt and vengeful violence have long, long been a way of life around the Finger Lakes racetrack. People out there should also know that my father's death left my mother so depressed and anxious she will never board an airplane. And that, as she and I plunked our butts down in a nasty coach line bus for the thirty-four hours of drudgery between Arkansas and upstate New York, I was under the false impression that I'd stay with her in the Corcorans' house for a few weeks to better understand my father's life and death and legacy, but that, after I'd proven my fearlessness about all that, I'd move someplace where my own life could flourish, maybe someplace west or overseas. I actually believed that then. I believed New York State would be only a place to visit. Somewhere in Kentucky, though, my mother began talking bluntly. And telling me things as though I were a normal adult rather than the daughter of a sex-deprived widow enamored of preachers. Things like how my father had gotten tangled up in those sun-bleached weeds in the middle of the day--not long at all after he'd sipped wine to relax himself to sleep. Things like for a month or so just before he drowned, he tried to sleep as much as he could, to fight the impatience he felt while fishing, a pastime he'd adopted because owners weren't letting him ride mounts on account of his recent failures to win. Things like how these failures to win were thanks to a spill he'd taken on the homestretch just before the finish line, a spill that caused a yelp from him to reach the grandstand when his left hand was trampled, so that now the bones inside were just tiny pieces floating in an ugly swollen-up mush; like how his last day was a Tuesday covered by clouds shaped like toadfrogs, and how Tom Corcoran was the last person to see my father alive. Tom Corcoran--or so my mother said on that bus ride--had jocked more than his share of horses that lost, and back then he was past the middle of his career and putting on weight, so he'd jog twelve miles every Tuesday, the dark day at the Finger Lakes track. And on my father's last morning, Tom woke and put on his sweats and looked out his bedroom window toward the lake and saw my father sitting near the shoreline, leaning against a young crab apple tree. Resting against the other side of that tree was a bottle of port wine, which Tom thought odd, since my father had always told apprentices never to drink before sunset. Tom then headed down to that shoreline to say hello, but as it turned out didn't say boo because my father was fast asleep, with one-hundred-pound-test black nylon fish line not only cast out into the lake but also wrapped around his ankle. And see, Tom knew why that ankle was wrapped with that fish line: My father had already tried tying cast fish line to the trunk of the crab apple tree--so as to leave a baited hook out in the lake overnight--only to return the following morning to find the line snapped by what had to have been a huge muskie. Tom considered tapping my father's shoulder, to wake him and ask if he wanted to study the Form's freshest charts, but he didn't touch my father at all, because my father hadn't done a single thing right at the track since that cavalry charge of hoofs had mangled his hand. But all these details about my father's death, as well as any les- sons they held about the effects of drinking, were not , my mother told me, as important as my future, and my future, she promised, would not require that I live in upstate New York forever. I'd need to stay there merely as long as it took to get our feet on the ground moneywise, which the Corcorans, who my mother had kept in touch with on and off, had been generous enough to offer to help us do. And let me just say something that I think every public defender should mention to just about any jury: If you ever wonder why people do twisted things, just remember that, more often than not, it comes down to someone losing or needing or otherwise wanting money. Anyway wouldn't you know that, right then, my mother added her "little" kicker detail about the Corcorans. About the fact that they had a son named Tug, who'd recently turned twenty-two just like me, and who now managed a horse farm on their acreage while he saved for college tuition. A spoiled smarty-pants, I thought, but to be polite given all those stuck-on-a-bus miles ahead of us, I took enough interest to ask, "This farm is for racehorses?" "Can't say I know for sure," she said. "When it comes to racehorses, Tom Corcoran tends to hold his cards pretty close to his vest." Excerpted from Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.