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Watch Me Go


Watch Me Go

Mark Wisniewski has been critically acclaimed, and deservedly so, for his short fiction, which has appeared in various literary publications for several years running. His longer work has been sporadic in appearance; WATCH ME GO is his third novel in almost 18 years and contains some of his best prose to date.

WATCH ME GO is told by two alternating voices. One is Douglas Sharp, known as “Deesh” to his friends, a man who is in serious trouble and his chances of escaping it are either slim or none. The “slim” in that equation rests on the other narrator, a young woman named Jan Price. A great deal of the mystery that is created here arises from the question of how Jan can possibly be of any use to Deesh, who is charged with multiple murders. As the story unfolds, we come to see Deesh as the perfect example of the ruin caused by the evil of bad companions.

"The literary firmament in which these characters are gathered is built of quietly memorable phrases that stick with the reader long after the book is closed and the tales are told."

His first step into all but certain oblivion is when he accompanies two lifelong friends on an errand that is seemingly innocent on its face but is all too certain to be trouble: it pays too much, is much too simple, and is altogether too clandestine. All three of the men have a pretty good guess as to what the errand involves, but they all go through with it anyhow. As has been said in another context, the lure of easy money has a very strong appeal. The real trouble begins after the fact, when things go from neutral to extremely bad in just a few seconds, and Deesh, though no more than an innocent bystander, finds himself on the run. He all too quickly becomes a wanted fugitive, with all of law enforcement in the eastern half of the country looking for him.

Jan is as different from Deesh as can be. Her father, now deceased, was a horse jockey who had injured himself during a race and sunk into a morass from which he never recovered before an apparent fishing accident took his life. She and her mother, living in Arkansas, are driven by desperation to move to upstate New York where her father raced and ultimately died, driven by the promise of employment with Tom Corcoran, who had employed her father. Tom, however, is a gambler of the most self-destructive sort, and there is little promise of anything vocationally substantive when Jan and her mom arrive on what is left of the family horse farm. Jan’s one solace is Tug, Tom’s son, for whom she feels a deepening attraction. The Corcorans, however, are ensnared in a cycle of betting that promise nothing but danger and loss, and Jan is all but certain to become ensnared in the same way that her father did.

So how do these two stories intertwine, as the Prologue promises? Some readers may guess approximately halfway through the book; for others, the eventual intersection may seem a bit contrived, as so with a number of twists and turns that one encounters, particularly in Deesh’s story, which is the more interesting of the two and washed thoroughly in loss, bad choices, missed opportunity and neglect. The joy of reading the book, though, is the close encounter with Wisniewski’s character development and stark prose. His portrait of Deesh’s slim, slow fall from grace is one that is subtle yet all-but-certain; one knows from practically the first page that his friendship is wasted on the people with whom he associates. Meanwhile, the railbirds who populate Jan’s story are of a type that one would almost certainly find and recognize at any racetrack, if one were inclined to visit such an establishment after reading the book.

The literary firmament in which these characters are gathered is built of quietly memorable phrases that stick with the reader long after the book is closed and the tales are told. You’ll look forward to more from Wisniewski, in both short and longer works, after reading WATCH ME GO.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 6, 2015

Watch Me Go
by Mark Wisniewski

  • Publication Date: January 22, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Noir, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0399172122
  • ISBN-13: 9780399172120