"HAINTS STAY where and as they please," the woman says grimly. It's her philosophy and she tells it to the newcomers, brothers Brooke and Sugar, to let them know she accepts them. She won't think of them as persons deserving of murder—yet. Brooke knows that could change. The idea of who should be murdered and for what reasons is a centerpiece in Colin Winnette's Haints Stay, out now from Two Dollar Radio. It shifts all over the book's unearthly frontier. This is just the nature of the place Winnette drops us into. The landscape is western. People are hard. Their memories are short and the atmosphere is pretty paranormal.
Early on, Brooke offers his leg to someone he's about to kill and says, "Would you like to stick me one more time before we finish you?" Then we never hear about it again. Casually, people in Haints Stay are stabbed, and have their flesh eaten, their limbs amputated. The language isn't sickening. It doesn't linger. The gore isn't the point. The gore is a symptom of wherever the heck these people are—possibly heck?
Winnette is on his fifth well-received book of fiction. He contributes to The Believer and McSweeney's, but was unknown to me when I started Haints Stay. The cinematic quality to this work is undeniable and there's a coolness that reminds me of Cormac McCarthy—but I like this more than McCarthy. Winnette offers a philosophical meatiness to gnaw on as his characters cross, double back, and re-cross the unnamed terrain. They recover their old battle sites but fail to learn from their past blooms of violence. Like I said, short memories.
I was happy to see talk of a film agent and film rights in some of my Haints Stay background research. That said, I have a list of demands: (1) I want Sugar to stay transgender. The uncompromised address of Sugar's transgender identity was part of what endeared me to this story. (2) I didn't think of the brothers as white and it would really bother me if they were cast as such. (3) Minimal, Dogville-style, stage-box set. (4) Let's just go ahead and have Lars von Trier direct it. (5) World domination.