“Fargo Burns, the madly baffled, restless and beguiling subject of Kos Kostmayer’s compelling novel, bounces like a pinball between excess and sobriety—as do we, his unsettled readers. Kostmayer’s visceral account of one man’s quest for quiet normality is dark, tense, playful and deeply affecting.”
—Jim Crace, author of Being Dead
Playwright and screenwriter Kostmayer’s first novel begins with a bang and a crash. It’s 1971. The Vietnam War is raging, and 32-year-old Fargo Burns is throwing furniture, pans, brooms, and anything else he can grab out the window of his 12th-floor New York City apartment. He’s been hearing voices again. He's “losing his grip.” He feels sad, bewildered, and lost, yet somehow satisfied. Kostmayer draws upon his extensive dramatic experience to fashion an existential novel which is more play than prose, driven primarily by dialogue. Kostmayer employs first- and third-person narrative, interior monologue, and voices, like the chorus in a Greek drama, which emanate from Fargo’s mind, to roughly stitch together his story. This “night of fearful, inexplicable misery and violence” sends Fargo to the hospital, where he meets Lane Dubinsky, a sympathetic psychiatrist. The story moves back and forth between Fargo’s messy existence and his sessions with Lane. He’s broke, unemployed, living on welfare, and abusing drugs and alcohol. He’s separated from Holly, his wife, and their three children, whom he loves. After his release, Fargo finds a dingy apartment and regularly returns to his old haunt, Havoc, where he once worked as a bartender, coming under the spell of sexy, poetry-reading Billie Speed, girlfriend of psychopathic killer Kohler Skane. Frequent flashbacks to Fargo’s youth in Bitter Forest, Mississippi, introduce us to his family, the bigoted South in the 1940s, and the joyful as well as harrowing sources of those voices. Fargo is broken; he wants to be “fixed.” A big decision about his future awaits. It could end in a bad way. Kostmayer takes us on a bumpy, erratic ride, but there’s much here to admire.
An effective, tragic story of a decent man in a battle with the vicissitudes of life.