Toby Sawyer is a part-time cop in Coyote Crossing, a small town in Oklahoma that’s seen better days. He’s living in a trailer he inherited from his mother with his girlfriend and his young son and is struggling to make ends meet. Called from his bed in the early hours to a shooting, he’s instructed to guard the body of Luke Jordan, one of four bad-ass brothers. Bored, he wanders off, only to discover the body missing when he returns ahort while later. Any hope of a permanent position seems to have disappeared with it. Worse still, he seems to have unwittingly derailed a crime in action and the Jordan brothers think he killed Luke and want revenge. The tin star pinned on his Weezer t-shirt says he’s the law, but to everyone else it appears to be the slacker target to aim at. If he makes it alive to daybreak he’ll be doing well; if he administers justice it’ll be a miracle.
The Deputy is country noir crime novel that unfolds at an ever-quickening pace. Gischler writes in a well honed, pared back prose, and like Daniel Woodrell seems to be able to paint characters with a few deft strokes. Whereas Woodrell focuses on the everyday and mundane consequences of crime, Gischler delivers a rollercoaster ride, with twists and turns and some very fine set pieces. There’s a nicely developed sense of place and the plotting is first rate. If the movie rights have been bought for this book, I’m begging you, don’t change a goddamn thing. Seriously, there’s no need. The scenes, the pace, the dialogue, the characters, it’s all perfect as it is. Just cast a decent lead and fill the rest with a good ensemble cast, as per Winter’s Bone. If the rights haven’t been sold, then what are you producer’s waiting for? If there was ever a book crying out to be made into a movie, this is it. I thought it was a blast of a read and zipped through it in a sitting. Sawyer has great potential as an anchor for a follow-on book, or possibly a series. Regardless of whether The Deputy is a standalone, I’ll be keeping an eye out for other Gischler stories.