Michael Hogan on his newest creation, the unforgettable Joe Buckett, a down-and-out middle-aged Manhattanite who’s about to find his purpose in enacting the rough justice of a vigilante. Get to know him in “Buckett Full O’ Coal,” one of the suspenseful short stories in our holiday-themed collection Dreaming of a Noir Christmas.
Mid-life and the trajectory of Joe Buckett’s shot at fame, money, power, status and position flattens with a cough, a sag, a lag, unemployment, one enlarged prostate and a touch of sciatica. His marriage? Over. His career? Put a fork in it. His faith in systems, bureaucracies, government, the courts, those august creatures of state and church, instituted by a society, concerned for its citizens, to provide help and assistance when help and assistance are needed? Yeah, right. Even his minimal expectations for his fellow man? Forget about it. Welcome to the dark night of the soul where one man confronts one universe and fashions his response to the void. Most go under. Most surrender to a life of sedentary solitude. They become voyeurs, spectators, plugged into some screen, obsessively following sports, soaps, soft porn or the latest from Hollywood, the fluctuations of a market in which they play no part. But Buckett is a rare exception to the rule. Buckett acts. Once a man of letters, thought and commentary, now Buckett acts. Life has hurt him into action.
There are vigilantes hailed as heroes and vigilantes hailed as monsters, the assessment dependent on the mark’s evil. It’s a thin line between Charles Bronson and a serial killer. Buckett walks the line, but he never kills a man just to watch him die. There’s wit in it. Reason. Humor. Context. Street-righteousness. A Modest Proposal: What’s so funny about peace love and understanding when everybody and everything has decided to fuck you? Well, nothing’s funny when the world is a joke. The only thing about Buckett that makes him different than the rest is that he takes the next step. He becomes the hero in his own production. Daydreams of revenge, served hot or cold, become real in time and space. The guilty suffer mightily. Rough justice manifests. And Buckett sleeps better than he used to. – MH