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Posted: June 20, 2021

Rick Riordan fits right in

Book Review

By Derryll White

Riordan, Rick (2001).  The Devil Went Down to Austin.

Reading Rick Riordan is analogous to listening to ZZ Top.  He has that same driving Texas beat with the craziest lyrics, and he makes the reader very happy with the incessant rhythm and action.

Riordan infuses every page with energy, sarcasm and the kind of twisted humour that Carl Hiaason rolls out so effortlessly. What is it about Texas – Cormac McCarthy, Don Winslow, Larry McMurtry, James Lee Burke – all that space nurtures outrageous imaginations and limitless talent? Must be! Rick Riordan fits right in.

‘The Devil Went Down to Austin’ is a good story, but a little more complicated than most of Riordan’s mystery novels.  The cast of characters is large and a little cumbersome.  But the author is a very good writer, “a master stylist” as Harlan Coben says.  He pulls it all together into an intriguing read. In the end it become more Jimmy Buffett ‘Margaritaville’ and Coral Reefer cross than the blues influenced sexual references of ZZ Top’s lyrics.

This story is a shift from the hard, edgy Texas of past Riordan conquests.  In a couple of instances Tres Navarre slides out of his tough P.I. persona and into Beowulf and the other Riordan, author of the ‘Olympians’ series. It is seamless and shows just how skilled a writer Riordan is. This is a complex but great read.

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Excerpts from the novel:

PEOPLE – “With Jimmy – there was always something going on that he didn’t share, always something else taking up his thoughts, even when he was working nineteen hours a day on Techsan.  That’s what attracted me to him.  When you have ninety percent of someone’s attention – I suppose it drove me crazy, not knowing where that other ten percent was focused.”

MEMORY – I don’t remember what my friend looked like back then, which is funny, because he is such a presence for me now.  Later images have superimposed themselves on that first memory – years of hating and wishing.

TEXAS – Soon the garden would be a hundred degrees, fit only for cicadas and dragonflies and herbs.  But I could picture Faye and Victor out here again this evening – drinking freshly brewed sun tea, enjoying the cat mint and sage that had infused the air during the afternoon, watching the blue glow of the moonlight tower take over from the sunset.

Like all Texans, they had learned to make the most of the edges of the day.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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