Save Me, Joe Louis

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Macrae seeks refuge among the petty thieves and the homeless of Manhattan after his desertion from the Marine Corps. Although it’s unlikely the government will devote significant resources to his apprehension, any employment involving official records is closed to Macrae. He is, therefore, vulnerable when a casual acquaintance, the psychotic Charlie, suggests they might profit from a variant of the classic street robbery. Macrae and Charlie not only relieve their victims of ready cash but also force them to deplete their bank accounts using the ubiquitous automatic tellers.

The two thugs find their new occupation somewhat profitable, but an excursion into the world of armed robbery leaves Macrae wounded and forces them to flee to Baltimore. Once there, they fall in with Porter, who is trying to restore some measure of normality to his life after his release from prison. Within a short time yet another robbery goes sour, and the three leave Baltimore for Macrae’s home in Tennessee.

Although he willingly forsook life on a farm and his abusive father, Macrae finds a new peace and purpose upon his return. But the bucolic life is not for Charlie, and the three must perforce depart in the wake of a bloody bank robbery. Still, the brief time in Tennessee is enough to cause Macrae to believe that you can indeed go home again.

SAVE ME, JOE LOUIS is not an easy novel to read, given the nature of the characters, but it is difficult not to develop a measure of compassion for three young men who are anything but deserving of same. Bell’s minimalist narrative style requires a bit of patience, but the diligent reader will be amply rewarded.