Randy Kennedy

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Presidio

Set in the 1970s in the vast and arid landscape of the Texas panhandle, this darkly comic and stunningly mature literary debut tells the story of a car thief and his brother who set out to recover some stolen money and inadvertently kidnap a Mennonite girl who has her own reasons for being on the run.

 

Troy Falconer returns home after years of working as a solitary car thief to help his younger brother, Harlan, search for his wife, who has run away with the little money he had. When they steal a station wagon for the journey, the brothers accidentally kidnap Martha Zacharias, a Mennonite girl asleep in the back of the car. Martha turns out to be a stubborn survivor who refuses to be sent home, so together these unlikely road companions attempt to escape across the Mexican border, pursued by the police and Martha’s vengeful father.

 

The story is told partly through Troy’s journal, in which he chronicles his encounters with con artists, down-and-outers, and roadside philosophers, people looking for fast money, human connection, or a home long since vanished. The journal details a breakdown that has left Troy unable to function in conventional society; he is reduced to haunting motels, stealing from men roughly his size, living with their possessions in order to have none of his own and all but disappearing into their identities.

 

With a page-turning plot about a kidnapped child, gorgeously written scenes that probe the soul of the American West, and an austere landscape as real as any character, Presidio packs a powerful punch of anomie, dark humor, pathos, and suspense.

"Here is a rich and rare book. Reader, if you like poor Texas boys gone bad (or not bad enough), landscapes so accurate in detail you feel you grew up there, coldly logical Mennonite girls with outcast Manitoban-Mexican papas, magnetic details about old cars, the finer points of an automobile-thieving, and a magisterial use of italics you will want to read this novel through twice in a row as I did. It is a hard picture of the choices offered to poor Texas youths in the 1960s and ’70s. You might say it shakes out as a weird combination of Canterbury TalesBreaking Bad and À la recherche du temps perdu with a dash of Confederacy of Dunces, but it is brilliantly original. You will laugh, you will cry and you will read it again straight through to enjoy the fine points of marvelous writing. There is nothing out there like Presidio."  —Annie Proulx, author of Barkskins

"Presidio is set in what I think of as Max Crawford Country—the bleak dreamscape around the edges of the Caprock, where life is, to say the least—gritty. Randy Kennedy captures the funny yet tragic relentlessness of survival in an unforgiving place. Let's hope he keeps his novelistic cool and brings us much, much more." —Larry McMurtry

“A fluent, mordant, authentic, propulsive narrative, wonderfully lit from within by an intriguing main character ... This is his first novel and it left me hoping he writes many more.” —Lee Child

"Randy Kennedy writes wonderful prose. He combines the detail and eye of a journalist with the lyricism of a poet. If you want to read about the real deal down in Texas, he's your man."  —James Lee Burke, author of Robicheaux

"Randy Kennedy's Mexican-American frontier of the 1970s occupies the same dustblown landscape painted by Cormac McCarthy. Car thieves and drug dealers tumble together with Mennonites and luncheonette waitresses—all of them lightened by empty pockets, small dreams, and minimal futures. From these elements Kennedy assembles a gorgeously written narrative of outrunning violence and despair."  —Carol Anshaw, author of Carry the One

“A fabulous novel, executed in rare and exquisite language, about two brothers and the tough little girl, (one of the most engaging fictional heroines in recent memory), they accidentally encounter on a hapless journey across Texas to recover some stolen money. Kennedy is truly the literary heir to Cormac McCarthy in his depiction of the vivid characters and sparsely beautiful landscape of the American West.”  —Dinitia Smith, author of The Honeymoon

"An absolute marvel of a novel. Like a nesting doll, it continually uncovers stories within stories, each revealing the depth and humanity of its fascinating cast of characters. Kennedy has given us a wonderfully compelling portrait of the American West in the second half of the twentieth century, full of danger, humor, and surprises."   —Ian Stansel, author of The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo


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Subwayland

Since the doors of the first subway train opened in 1904, New Yorkers and tourists alike have been fascinated, amused, amazed, repelled and bewildered by the world-within-a-world that lies beneath the city. In Subwayland, the creator of The New York Times's award-winning "Tunnel Vision" column leads readers on an intrepid and unconventional tour of this storied subterranean land.

“On every page of this handsomely-written collection, Randy Kennedy has taught me something new. Everything I cherish about the subways is here: the underground community of solitude, the performers, the lunatics, the sinister desperadoes, the professionals who move us through those tunnels in speed and safety, along with the abiding mysteries. If these pieces don't get the remaining subwayphobes out of their stalled autos and into the city's greatest daily marvel, nothing will."  —Pete Hamill

 

"...to read his notes from the underground (and the elevated) is to know that Kennedy crafts city stories on a par with the marvelous Joseph Mitchell's....he discovers Gotham at its scrappiest--the most American place in America."  Entertainment Weekly