the book: The Long And Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
[Halloween parade in Oklahoma City]
Night fell. The crowds along Broadway built. Wyatt had to squeeze his way through the park across from the old newspaper building. By the time he reached Bricktown and the bleachers set up in the parking lot across from the baseball stadium, the marching band at the head of the parade— their plumed shakos splattered with fake blood, of course— had caught and passed him. They played a slow, gloomy version of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ ” from the Broadway musical Oklahoma! A nice touch. Wyatt found a seat in the bleachers and watched the rest of the parade from there. The ballerinas in the graveyard twirled and scissor-kicked. A squadron of drag queens buzzed by on roller skates. The German shepherds, released from their truck, trotted somberly past in tight formation, their tarantula legs jiggling. A dozen demonic clowns piled out of a slow-moving hearse. And then back in. And then back out. Some of the floats were charmingly half-assed. One was just a beat-up old Chevy with a pair of beach balls glued to the hood and painted to look like eyeballs. The crowd applauded everyone and everything. After an hour or so, flames began to flicker in the dark distance, beneath the Bricktown bridge. Wyatt heard the hollow boom and shiver of a gong. A current of anticipation ran through the spectators on the sidewalks, up through the bleachers. The people around Wyatt stood, so he stood, too.
Here came the Marching Zombies. Until now Wyatt had seen only the unpainted papier-mâché heads. Now he got the full effect— crazed eyes, convincingly rotted and bloodstained teeth, missing chunks of cheek and jowl. The oversize heads were three or four times the size of a normal head, so when you added in the stilts, each zombie was nine or ten feet tall. And there had to be at least a hundred of them, tiki torches ablaze, lurching forward with every beat of the gong. Wyatt had to admit it was pretty damn impressive.
commentary: I loved this book, which I blogged on earlier in the year. It is a superb thriller/crime story, it is very funny, and the writing is wonderful. I’m not a great one for descriptions, particularly in what I hope is a fast-moving crime book, but Berney completely won me over. He’s a very visual writer, I really could imagine the scenes he portrays, and by the end I felt as if I knew Oklahoma City well. These few lines come just before the excerpt above:
The sun dropped beneath the horizon and then detonated, torching the racks of clouds stacked up above the downtown skyline. Wyatt had forgotten how quickly, in the vast empty sky of the southern plains, the ordinary could turn so flamboyant.- marvellous writing.
The Halloween Parade doesn’t truly advance the plot much – our hero Wyatt merely needs to talk to somebody after it finshes – but it’s a memorable part of the book.
The dancing zombie is in New Orleans, and the second picture shows other Halloween participants in the same city. The walking zombies are from Pelotas, Brazil. All pictures from Wikimedia Commons.