“All the land—people talked about America, someday you should see it, you should see it, you should drive across it all. They didn’t say how it got into your head” (102).
America got in my head while reading Bill Beverly’s Dodgers, just as it gets into the head of the novel’s main character, East. And it will get into your head to, as you follow East on his journey from South Central Los Angeles through the Midwest (including a tension-filled stop in my home state, Iowa) and into Ohio.
Dodgers is the story of East, a fifteen-year-old corner boy ordered by his boss and biological father Fin to lead a van load of four young black men (including East’s estranged half-brother Ty) into whitest America to take care of some “business” involving a witness. And the story of the inevitable complications that arise when the “business” becomes messy.
But Dodgers is also the story of America: the underbelly and the overbite, the parts you fly over and the parts you are afraid to enter, the racial and cultural bubbles and the overlap of their Venn diagrams, the supply and the demand sides of the drug trade, lives that are a series of grifts and grasps. The frayed edges of family, whether it be the violent confrontations between East and Ty, the street code of Fin’s criminal enterprise, or the bonds that develop in Ohio between East and his new boss, Perry, at the paintball house. America as a series of broken homes, figurative and literal.
Broken into three equally compelling sections, Dodgers takes the crime novel on a worthy road trip. Though set in contemporary America, Dodgers shares certain aspects of genre, theme, and tone with season two of Noah Hawley’s Fargo, and I could see the book being adapted into a future season of the show. I hope that sounds like high praise—it is meant to.