W. Burroughs western novel written in the twilight of his career. Written while he was in his mid-seventies, his voice is razor sharp and clear, his vision without fat or extraneous tension, his phrases crisp and lacking strain. Much of his earlier work, such as Naked Lunch
, or Junkie
, were more piecemeal collages than thought out works, due to Burroughs' excessive drug use and self-inflicted ostracism.
When Allen Ginsburg visited Bill in Tangier he claimed not to know where the manuscript for Naked Lunch had come from: He vehemently denied authorship. While overseas, pre-published Burroughs had cast himself overboard into a sea of cold consciousness without life-raft or plan, deep-sixing his psyche into dark ocean whirlpools thoughtless of breath. I'm sure the kif and smack helped ease the warning flares, along with the shocked and peaceful horror that accompanies the accidental slaying of one's own wife, but as much as this prose-method helps to free the inner creative spirit, it still leaves Naked Lunch a puzzle more than a few pieces short, with chapters that read like they have been extricated from much longer works hitched up to one another like boxcars of cabbage and dynamite. This product presaging his later cut-up method of systemized syntax.
These early flaws had been steamed metal smooth in his later publications, and The Place of Dead Roads, spills effortlessly forth like a blueprint drafted in mercury. The lead character is Kim Carson, a queer gunslinger who fastitously learns the finer arts of gunfighting through Zen practice, not unlike that which is described in Zen and the Art of Archery and his previous work, Exterminator. Kim, along with the Johnson Family, (a ragtaggle gang of theives, pickpockets, and cowboys a la Jack Black), set out to navigate the future-history of mankind through subterfuge, genius, homoerotic love, imagination and seemingly bottomless buckets of lead. A good read, and the most unusual treatment of the western paradigm since Richard Brautigans' the Hawkline Monster.