Chris Rhatigan’s The Kind of Friends Who Kill Each Other is a nasty, vile, excellent piece of work, which brings up the old question about whether it’s worth reading, watching, listening to anything about people you can’t stand. Why spend time with a bunch of losers when you can read about heroes with a purpose, with a moral centre, with a bit of get-up-and-go? The three friends seem to have drifted through life, meeting up once a week in a depressing bowling alley to drink and talk bollocks to each other, nothing else filling their soulless lives. With normal chit-chat getting stale, they each confess to terrible crimes they’ve committed, but then freak out. As they have all confessed, balance ought to keep them from ratting each other out, but paranoia strikes when wondering whether the barman heard any of it.
What happens next breaks that equilibrium, and its the wide-eyed *stare* at the narrator’s thought-processes and actions which speeds you through to the end. Your stomach hurts at his day working in the gas station, at every petty victory his boss can get over him; at his suspicion of the woman who comes into the store every day for a flirt and the desire for a date, which he can’t face, because why would she show interest in a loser like him? At the indifference he has about his “friends”, each of them merely a habit he exercises his jaw with once a week. His thoughts are compelling, running into each other, divided only by commas, coming to a full stop only after twists and turns hit a hairpin bend. Then another stream runs on, leaving the reader wanting to escape from the man’s company, like the protagonist wants so desperately to avoid his mates. The internal dialogue snaps and fizzles, and smacks you over the head. It contrasts with the forced conversations between characters.
I love the arc of the main character, from that of laid-back loser wanting a quiet life, to a monster making choices others once made for him. You’ll never warm to him, or to any of the others, except maybe for Lindsay, the woman who fancies him. But I couldn’t look away. I rubbernecked all the way to the end.
The only problem I had (with the version I downloaded) were some missing sentences, on maybe about six of the book’s pages, which brought me out of the story, as I thought I’d done a double-page turn.