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House of Prayer, No. 2

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Never getting caught, however, does not come easily to this unlikely writer. In and out of hospitals, Richard spends as much time under or recovering from the knife as he does rambling around the small Southern town that ill suited his alcoholic father and homesick mother.

When able-bodied, he’s usually in trouble. “The first time you are arrested it is for assaulting a police officer,” Richard writes. (As a teenager, he shot a cop in the face with a water pistol.)

A promising job working as a DJ at a local radio station and an early affinity for William Faulkner devolve into a failed stint at Washington and Lee College. Richard rambles – a few pages chronicle either a day or a decade – but his propulsive prose makes “House of Prayer No. 2” a surprising page turner. Somehow, even his Charles Bukowski-style drinking binges become as poignant on the page as... well, as Bukowski’s own storied melancholy.

When luck strikes, it’s a swift and sudden bolt from the blue. “You are working digging irrigation ditches, and one day you go into a convenience store to buy some beer and check out the magazines,” Richard writes. “There’s an Atlantic Monthly in the rack, and you are surprised to see that you are a finalist in their American short story contest.”

In fits and starts, Richard’s career unfolds. He contributes to The New Yorker and Esquire. He interviews Tom Waits. He writes a novel. He writes for TV. He writes the movie “Stop-Loss.”

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