Tag Archives: methamphetamine

Reading with Fakename: Frank Sinatra In A Blender

This is the first novel by a writer named Matthew McBride, who is from Missouri (as is everyone on my father’s side of the family).
As often happens, I read his second novel first (“A Swollen Red Sun”), because Amazon pushed it on me relentlessly. But not to blame it on them…it did sound like the kind of book I’d like, and I did. That second book takes place in Gasconade County, Missouri, which was once known as the methamphetamine capital of the country.
Meth is the absolute scourge of the rural Midwest/upper South. I,in fact, recently learned that my favorite Missouri cousin from early adulthood is presently in prison on a conviction related to meth, and it isn’t the first time for him.
That book features meth cookers and dealers, crooked cops, murder, and overall desperation. McBride seems to know this world a little too well. His bio says he’s a former assembly-line worker turned writer, and that he writes about the people he knows. I wonder if he knows my cousin? I wonder if he’s in prison.
Frank Sinatra In A Blender’s main character is Nick Valentine, a private investigator in St. Louis who used to be a cop before his drinking got the best of him. Now that he’s been kicked off the force, he’s turned drinking into an art form. He always seems to order at least three kinds of liquor at a time. In a rare display of restraint toward the end of the book, he stops at a convenience store and buys a bottle of vodka, a bottle of orange juice, and a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.
Usually it’s more like a White Russian, a shot of Maker’s Mark, and two Coronas with lime. That’s when he’s at his usual hangout, a strip club called Cowboy Roy’s Fantasyland. Nick’s creative use of alcohol is one of the ongoing gags in the book, and is part of what makes it so incredibly funny. Except, that isn’t really funny…is it? There is a lot of cognitive dissonance in both books. You find yourself laughing hysterically while all around you there is a mind-boggling level of violence and brutality and torture. Ha Ha, right? If you can stand to read it, the point does sort of creep up on you, that there is a certain level of immunity we’ve achieved when it comes to horror.
Frank Sinatra is Nick’s dog, a very macho Yorkshire Terrier. In good conscience, I can’t reveal to you whether or not Frank ends up in a blender (but if he did, he would fit in it).
The book is described by the publisher, and therefore on Amazon, as a “cult classic”. For whom, I wonder? In the past, this would be called a “hard-boiled” detective novel, because the detectives are always wry and sardonic and world-weary. This book updates the level of violence and adds modern elements (like meth) not dreamed of in the days of Sam Spade. Both books are brilliant, not least because you discover that you can, in fact, still be horrified.