Sunday, August 28, 2011

BOOKS: The Walk by Lee Goldberg

As the first non-series novel by Lee Goldberg I have read, I didn't have a feel for the characters in The Walk until ohhh, about a paragraph from the end. That was because, by then, Goldberg had sent his character Marty Slack through a modern-day version of The Perils of Pauline.

Based structurally on an idea fomented by a true-to-life event, the Northridge earthquake, Goldberg's actually made his own walk across Los Angeles after that quake on a fact-finding mission. The Walk is about an even more cataclysmic earthquake hitting while Slack is at an on-location set, 30 miles away from his home in Calabassas. Slack is a TV executive, having joined the 'other side,' after having given up his dream of being a writer. He doesn't like himself all that much. His marriage isn't all that solid. But as a mid-life crisis, a game-changer of an earthquake is a heck of one.

Goldberg gets in enough backstory before setting Slack on his trek to make you wonder how much you're cheering Slack on. And he does this all first-person. No checking up on how things are going with Beth back home. Is she dead or alive? Has she wondered off from the wreck of their home elsewhere. Nope, this is all about Marty getting home, repairing himself physically and mentally (and even spiritually) with every step. And we don't have any idea whether the trek is worth it.

The Walk is, in some ways, a love poem to Los Angeles. It shows us the Los Angeles of the TV world and a lot of the bits and pieces that don't make it to the tiny silver screen. Of course, Goldberg takes quite the delight in wrecking all those bits and pieces. He even gets in more than a few jabs at the business that runs the town. Mostly through Slack's frequent, but not ever-present companion on the trek, Buck Weaver. Weaver is a bounty hunter and he's crude 'n coarse or crazy, you're choice.

Weaver seems like a peculiar choice as a moral compass. He makes Marty a saviour of sorts, and threatens Marty's life on an occasion or two without much cause. He's a walking cliche according to Marty. All testosterone with a black and white view on just about everything. A TV character. Several times, the pair appear to part, only to have Buck re-appear at some important juncture later. That's despite Weaver supposed to be getting home to his beloved dog.

Slack endures a lot in his quest. Things fall on him. Being shot at and shooting at people. Fire a couple of times. Being dropped on an exposed rebar, saved only by previous victims of the impalement cushioning his fall. There's a tsunami from a failed dam. And a tiger. You have to read the book just for the tiger sequence.

And a kid.

Which is important to the childless Slack. Clara's inclusion and the final fate of Buck at the end of the book make for a pretty decent emotional denouement.

I'm a little squeamish about language as raw as Buck's, but I got over it. This isn't a long book, perfect for a one-night read. I've read Goldberg considered writing a sequel to The Walk to describe the events of those fateful days and nights from Beth's end. I have a tough time believing there's enough story to warrant a whole book. But a short story?

Ya, I'd like that. Assuming it would be as good as The Walk.


Lee Goldberg said...

THanks for the great review, Gary! One correction, though. THE WALK is not based on any actual event in my life. I didn't walk that route until I was writing my book...and even then, I didn't do it all at once, but in sections as I was writing, so I could pick up all the details.

I think you may be right about the sequel to THE WALK...I may just do it as a novella. We'll see how the story develops.

Gary Mugford said...


I have made the correction and posted a separate update after the fact. Sorry about the mix-up. The walk (NOT The Walk) is still an impressive feat for those of us who think a long trek is to the fridge downstairs for a cold drink.

And yes, I encourage you to tell Beth's story. And I've got an idea, have Clara experience another calamitous situation sometime in the future and how she reunites with he adoptive parents. Two novellas, one book.

Just a thought.

Lee Goldberg said...

My thought is to show what has been happening with Beth over those same two or three days...and then pick it up again once Marty arrives. Both Marty and Beth have changed in significant ways, so their relatonship as well as the disaster around them, is the story.