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Willy Vlautin Don't Skip Out On Me

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Best known for fronting alternative country rockers Richmond Fontaine, Willy Vlautin has also penned a handful of essential novels chronicling the lives of underdogs fighting to keep afloat amidst the shifting economic landscape of 21st Century America.

Horace Hopper, the protagonist of Don't Skip Out On Me, is a twenty-one-year old farmhand of half-Irish and half-Indian descent. Struggling to find a sense of identity, Horace seeks to reinvent himself as a Mexican boxer. To attain this goal he changes his name to Hectar Hidalgo, stops listening to his favourite bands (Pantera, Crowbar and Cannibal Corpse), forces himself to eat spicy food (despite having a preference for Italian), and tries to learn Spanish. A powerless witness to this reinvention is Mr Reese, Horace's friend and legal guardian. Mr Reese wishes to support Horace but fears he's bound for ruin.

As Horace recalls, "Mr Reece had told him that life, at its core, was a cruel burden [...] We were born with innocent eyes and those eyes had to see pain and death and deceit and violence and heartache [...] Mr Reese said liars and cowards were the worst people to know because they broke your heart in a world that is built to break your heart. They poured gas on an already cruel and barely controllable fire."

In a world full of liars and cowards, emptying the gas canister like there's no tomorrow, Vlautin's novels express a mournful sanity. They're all pretty short. They're all pretty damn great. And you might just have time to squeeze them all in before that cruel and barely controllable fire destroys us all.

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