“Fine, fine,” I said, “We appreciate your business of course and stand by our product and such. But let me cut right to the chase here, boys. You know that we are a respectable underground corporation doing the world a grand service by recycling unwanted human life, giving it a purposeful existence, while at the same time curing the laziness of another more important person,” I paused and looked in all four of their eyes simultaneously to make sure our value proposition resonated clearly in their minds.
—Chad Coenson, Me and Bobby McGee
–from page 196, at the very bottom.
The above paragraph is the key to this book. I couldn’t have picked a more spoiling excerpt from Me and Bobby McGee—yet I promise—I’ve given you nothing. Not only is Me and Bobby McGee an original satire worthy of several nods, it is also the silver winner of the 2011 Independent Publisher’s Award, and received honorable mentions for general fiction at the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Book Festival.
I’d heard Chad Coenson’s prose and writing were similar to Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac. Perhaps there is some of that, but I saw clearer influences of Johnathan Swift and Hunter S. Thompson. I mean the early Thompson, before his writing got so angry.
Me and Bobby McGee is the story of Keesey Cypher, ex-assassin for the CIA, now washed up and burned out. Despite Keesey being a likeable character, by Mr. Coenson’s narration, I would call Keesey an anti-hero more than a protagonist. He’s a drunken poker player whose blackout antics manage to get him in big trouble with some local hustlers in New Orleans. Little does Keesey know, this mess will lead him into the strangest sort of love interest, an unlimited mountain of wealth, and a (relatively) greater purpose in life than fall out drunken poker.
The title, Me and Bobby McGee, is a little misleading. Being one who greatly appreciates classic rock, I recognized the Janis Joplin association. Coenson’s book inspired me to look deeper into Janis’s tragic life before reading—and then learned this book has nothing to do with Janis Joplin. Turns out Bobby McGee is an important character. Hot-bodied and packing iron, Bobby’s mission is to escort Keesey across the country to ensure his debt is paid—one way or the other. She is not only Cypher’s ‘babysitter,’ but now his new infatuation and next love interest. As a character, Bobby is both complex and dysfunctional, and Keesey is quite smitten. There were several places in this tale where I had to set down the book just to laugh, overcome with dark humor and deep cynicism.
Those of you who follow my reviews know I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect book. If Jesus wrote a book, it might have been perfect. Luckily, he didn’t, I’m sure everything else would seem stale in comparison.
Me and Bobby McGee is exceptionally good for a debut release, and I look forward to reading whatever else Coenson writes. My only criticism is there were a few places where Keesey gets a little longwinded. I encountered one (only one) character whose voice I couldn’t quite find and/or had difficulty believing. It was a farmer who spoke far too elegantly for the salt of the Earth. Maybe the farmer was educated, but given the setting and Chad’s otherwise flawless characters, I found this one character to being a chink in an otherwise well created story.
There is also a giant hole in the last couple chapters, but I’d guess that is probably intended for a future sequel.
Me and Bobby McGee is great storytelling and a fun ride. The book has an original voice and potent writing. The peaks and valleys within this tale are delivered sharp and pointed. The tension was masterfully achieved in several scenes, especially the US/Mexico border scenes. Clever, dark humor filled this volume and I will gladly read Coenson’s next book.
I found deep satisfaction while reading this book. I’d recommend this book to any reader with an ounce of wit and plenty of bad humor. Anyone who appreciates satire and values cynicism will revel in this story. If you loved the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this could be your next greatest thing.