One of the Yahoo reading groups has been reading William T. Vollmann this past quarter and I decided to read either Imperial (1300 pages) or Royal Family (800 pages): I finally selected the short novel and keep it in my bedroom where I can read it in the morning sun sitting in my power-recliner (also known as the Heitzer) or sitting up in bed with the dogs sleeping around me (I commonly have to reread the parts where I couldn’t hardly keep my eyes open). As you might imagine, the reading is slow and my arms are getting tired holding up this tome in bed at night.
The Royal Family is part of Vollmann’s writings on prostitution and the seamier side of our society. But it’s also a detective story. Here is the blurb from the back cover of my copy:
Henry Tyler is a failing private detective in San Francisco. When the woman he loves, a Korean-American named Irene—who happens to be married to his brother John—commits suicide. Henry clings despairingly to her ghost. Struggling to turn grief and guilt into something precious, he employs his professional skills to track down the “Queen of the Prostitutes” and her royal court of street-walkers and addicts, who accept him readily into their fold. While henry follows a new path to nightmare beauty and degradation, John defends himself against Irene’s memory with stoic blindness. Driven by his obsessive ambition as a contract lawyer, John focuses on one very lucrative project—drawing up the paperwork for a mysterious establishment in Las Vegas, call Feminine Circus, whose proprietor just happens to be hunting for the Queen.