After sorting the two copies of Jerry’s novel by page number, I set off to divvy it into chapters. My plan was to read it a chapter at a time.
Of course, I immediately discovered entire chapters are missing. I hope that they were useless exposition that he threw out in disgust. He seems to edit himself somewhat: in a script he wrote for a city promotion piece, after he wrote the part that covers the city’s beginnings he boldly scrawled “FUCK THE PAST” and then scratched out that page.
Sorting the chapters required that I look at the top of every page, and somehow that meant I read more than when I was looking for every page number at the bottom. Some things became clear:
- Someone, a child I believe, is threatened.
- In the final chapter, someone (perhaps a woman) is murdered.
- A few pages later there is a trial, and then it abruptly ends. The pacing of the plot might have issues.
- There’s a lot of dialect (like, a Huckleberry Finn level of dialect) in the dialog between the oil roughnecks. It isn’t bad. Colorful.
- What he’s bad at? Names. Men are named “Tex” and “Pardner” and I swear, there is one man known only by his last name, which is “Lawless.” Perhaps he meant to add some subtlety in the next draft.
I didn’t want spoilers, so I tried to see as little of the novel as possible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid smelling it. Who could guess a man could smoke so much that his novel would still stink of cigarettes decades later?