A fiercely original novel about fathers, sons, and fatal choices.
Seventeen-year-old Neil Garvin lives in a small town outside Las Vegas. Abandoned by his mother when he was three, he blames his abusive father ― the local sheriff ― for driving her away. Neil is good-looking, popular, the quarterback of the high school football team ― and as cruel to his peers as his father is to him. Obsessed with Neil Diamond, Neil’s father is a charmer in the eyes of strangers, but a monster to those closest to him. Neil plans to get out of town on his “million dollar arm,” until the night when he accidentally commits a terrible crime, which his father, unasked, covers up for him. Over the course of the three days that follow, Neil returns to school and attempts to go through the motions of his everyday life. But when the FBI arrives and begins to close in, Neil and his father become locked in a confrontation that will break them apart ― and set them free.
With unerring insight into family secrets, the bonds between fathers and sons, and the complexities of small-town life, Diamond Dogs is a triumphantly accomplished and powerfully moving debut novel.
Penzler Pick, October 2000: This disturbing first novel, set in Nevada, is the story of Neil Garvin, a high school football star who, in his own words, tells us of the night at Fred Billings’s house when he drank more beer than he can remember.
Drinking beer is what high school jocks do, and for Neil, it also drives away the anger he feels at his father, at his life, and at the fact that his mother left them when Neil was a baby. Neil blames his distant and abusive father for driving her away. A charming man to those who don’t know him, Neil’s father spends his leisure time drinking Midori and listening to Neil Diamond, after whom he has named his son. (The scene where Neil’s father takes him to Las Vegas for a Neil Diamond concert is a memorable one in a book filled with great scenes.)
Driving home from Fred’s house in his father’s car, Neil hits and kills a boy who is walking home from the party. Drunk and disoriented, Neil stuffs the body in the trunk, drives home, and passes out. When the body disappears from the trunk, Neil knows his father has found the body and hidden it, although not a word about this passes between them. Since Neil’s father is the sheriff of the town, he is called in by the dead boy’s family to find their missing son.
The investigation is seen through Neil’s eyes as he squirms through his father’s seeming inability to find any clues about the missing boy and his own growing closeness to the boy’s family, especially his sister, who see Neil and his father as friends and allies. He also watches as his father battles with the FBI (the dead boy’s uncle is an agent) over jurisdiction of the case.
While it is difficult to feel sorry for Neil as the net slowly closes around him, and his fear of being caught turns to self-loathing, the reader knows exactly what happened and feels like a participant. It is an uncomfortable feeling for the reader and a difficult mood for the author to maintain, but Alan Watt manages to pull it off without a hitch.
– Otto Penzler for Amazon.com