Synopses & Reviews
“Thanks to its wicked style and pacing, Mule
lets me forget Im reading serious literature while I follow its terrifying story into the land of the all-American damned.” — Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air
“Mule is swift, taut, and relentless, both a rip-roaring drug tale and a fascinating portrait of a decent human being whose morals slowly disintegrate under unbearable financial strain.” — Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton
James and Kate are golden children of the late twentieth century, flush with opportunity. But an economic downturn and an unexpected pregnancy send them searching for a way to make do. A friend in Californias Siskiyou County grows prime-grade marijuana; if James transports just one load from Cali to Florida, hell pull down enough cash to survive for months. And so begins the life of a mule.
A page-turning, Zeitgeist-capturing novel that plunges us into the criminal underworld with little chance to take a breath, Mule is about young people trying to make do in a moment when the American Dream they never had to believe in — because it was handed to them, fully wrapped and ready to go at the takeout window — suddenly vanishes from the menu.
“With adrenaline-infused sentences and a seat-gripping story line, Mule is a novel that illuminates contemporary American desperation, both its dangerous precipices and its thrilling, overwhelming freedom.” — Dean Bakopoulos, author of My American Unhappiness
"In a gritty debut, Vlautin explores a few weeks in the broken lives of two working-class brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, who abruptly ditch their Reno motel after Jerry Lee drunkenly kills a boy on a bicycle in a hit-and-run. The two are case studies in hard luck: their mother died when they were 14 and 16, respectively; their father is an ex-con deadbeat; neither finished high school. Frank has had just one girlfriend, motel neighbor Annie, whose mother is an abusive prostitute. An innocent simpleton, Jerry Lee is left feeling suicidal after the accident, despite his younger brother's efforts ( la Of Mice and Men's Lenny and George) to console him: 'It was real quiet, the way he cried,' says Frank, 'like he was whimpering.' On returning to Reno, an eventual reckoning awaits them. Vlautin's coiled, poetically matter-of-fact prose calls to mind S.E. Hinton a writer well-acquainted with male misfit protagonists seeking redemption, no matter how destructive. Despite the bleak story and its inevitably tragic ending, Vlautin, who plays in the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, transmits a quiet sense of resilience and hopefulness." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This guy writes like the secret love child of Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor just plain, true, tough, irony-free, heartrending American fiction about people living in the third-world sections of our country. It's a book that makes you feel like you've been shot but will probably recover." Michael Gruber
"Full of tenderness, and truth and life. I haven't read a novel this good in a long, long time." Guillermo Arriaga, Academy Award nominated screenwriter of Babel and 21 Grams
"The Motel Life is that rare beast: a book with the cadence of an old, well-loved song. Sad, haunting, and strangely beautiful." John Connolly
"A brilliant read-in-one-sitting novel, so simple, so spare and so honest." David Peace, author GB84 and The Red Riding Quartet
"A hugely compassionate, wildly original road movie of a novel about two brothers, Frank and Jerry, who are trying to escape the ramifications of a fatal hit-and-run accident. The warm-hearted folksy balladeer proves hes just as much at home on the printed page as he is behind a mic, with detailed yet understated drawings complementing the tale." Esquire (UK)
“Vlautins coiled, poetically matter-of-fact prose calls to mind S.E.Hinton.” Publishers Weekly
“Im floored…This book feel so damn real, so powerful, so much like life, even if its not yours.” Jonathan Zwickel, The Stranger
“If theres any justice, anywhere, The Motel Life will be widely read and widely admired.” Booklist
“A natural for the bigscreen and in fact Babel and 21 Grams writer Guillermo Arriaga has bought the film rights…” Salt Lake City Tribune
“Slighter than Carver, less puerile than Bukowski, Vlautin…manages to lay claim to the same blearyeyed territory, and…to make it new.” New York Times Book Review, EDITOR'S CHOICE
“Both heartbreaking and inspirational…written…with a simple hypnotic tone that seems as if it was grown in the Reno heat.” Associated Press ASAP
“The furthest Vlautins men can move is in circles, shackled to their dysfunctions and their meager paychecks…” San Francisco Weekly
"An acutely detailed page-turner..."
—Entertainment Weekly "[D'Souza's] authorial voice is sharp and crisp, eschewing flowery prose for a hard-hitting narrative style that perfectly suits the page-turning, drugfueled tale. Fans of Toby Young and Max Barry and those who follow DSouzas magazine work will greatly enjoy the timely, witty, fast-paced Mule."
—Booklist "A smart and bracing ground-level exploration of the drug trade."
—Kirkus "Mule is the sort of novel I love: it solves nothing but explains everything. It also, thanks to its wicked style and pacing, lets me forget Im reading serious literature while I follow its terrifying story into the land of the all-American damned."
—Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air "Mule is swift, taut, and relentless, both a rip-roaring drug tale and a fascinating portrait of a decent human being whose morals slowly disintegrate under unbearable financial strain. Tony D'Souza proves, yet again, that he is an immensely clever storyteller with plenty of talent to spare."
—Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton "With adrenaline-infused sentences and a seat-gripping storyline, Tony DSouza has written one of the first great novels to emerge from our perplexing, endless recession. A heartfelt tale of one familys freefall, Mule is a novel that illuminates contemporary American desperation, both its dangerous precipices and its thrilling, overwhelming freedom."
—Dean Bakopoulos, author of My American Unhappiness
With "echoes of Of Mice and Men"(The Bookseller, UK), The Motel Life explores the frustrations and failed dreams of two Nevada brothers on the run after a hit-and-run accident who, forgotten by society, and short on luck and hope, desperately cling to the edge of modern life.
From an award-winning “savvy storyteller”* comes a page-turning, zeitgeist-capturing novel of a young couple who turn to drug trafficking to make it through the recession.
James and Kate are golden children of the late twentieth century, flush with opportunity. But an economic downturn and an unexpected pregnancy send them searching for a way to make do.
A winter in the mountains of California’s Siskiyou County introduces a tempting opportunity. A friend grows prime-grade marijuana; if James transports just one load from Cali to Florida, he’ll pull down enough cash to survive for months.
James navigates life as a mule, then a boss—from moneyhungry friends to gun-toting drug lords, from Sacramento to Tallahassee, from just making the weight move cross-country to making thousands of dollars a day. The risks keep rising, forcing him to the next criminal level. A kidnapping, a shootout, a bank vault—it all culminates in a swirl of action.
Absorbing and timely,Muleperfectly captures the anxieties of plunging into the criminal world and of being a young person making do in a moment when the American Dream you never had to believe in—because it was handed to you, fully wrapped and ready to go at the takeout window— suddenly vanishes from the menu.
A novel about the recession generation and a young couple who turn to drug trafficking to make it through.
About the Author
Willy Vlautin is a member of the internationally acclaimed band Richmond Fontaine. he lives in Portland, Oregon.