SHOOT by Douglas Fairbairn (1973)
Reviewed by Mike Dennis
Is there any such thing as “macho noir”? I’ve never heard of it, but if there were, Shoot would be one of its classic examples.
Written in 1973 by Douglas Fairbairn, it’s a testosterone-loaded novel, which has one of the best openings I’ve read in a long, long time. A group of middle-aged hunters, all buddies and veterans of various wars, are out traipsing through the woods one day in full hunting regalia. As they come to a riverbank, they spot another group of guys, very much like themselves, on the other side. Without any provocation whatsoever, one of the hunters on the other side raises his rifle and fires at our group, wounding one of them. Reflexively, one of our guys, an expert marksman, quickly returns fire, blowing the shooter’s head apart.
A frantic firefight ensues, and eventually, our guys retreat and get the hell out of there without any more casualties. What follows is a well-constructed tale of the nature of manhood and its entwining with pack mentality.
Rex Jeannette is the ultimate alpha male, leading his group of friends through an agonizing analysis of both the bloody event and what they should do about it. Call the police? Go back and confront the attackers again? Do nothing? And speaking of the attackers, what are they going to do? Will they seek revenge for their slain comrade? Will they call the police? Who knows? But Rex is firmly in charge and everyone knows it.
He owns a big department store in town, and when he’s not dealing with the aftermath of the shootout in the woods, he’s busy slugging whiskey and screwing girls who work in his store. He makes constant references to firearms, complete with manufacturer, caliber, and model number. He’s not afraid of anything and he has no patience for anyone who is. Those who step out of line will pay for it.
Fairbairn, the author of the excellent 1977 noir novel, Street 8, is definitely untainted by the world of political correctness and all its stifling restrictions. Understandable, since PC wasn’t really entrenched in 1973. However, you get the impression that through Rex Jeannette, Fairbairn is venting a lot of his own aggression, working out his own hangups, and perhaps searching for his own place in the world.
The climax, while not entirely unexpected, is still somewhat of a surprise, thanks to the tremendous suspense the author has created in the runup to it. The final few lines are a fitting end to an incisive, violent novel.