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The Bayou Trilogy: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do (Rene Shade #1-3 omnibus)

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  1,239 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
A hard-hitting, critically acclaimed trilogy of crime novels from an author about whom New York magazine has written, "What people say about Cormac McCarthy ... goes double for [Woodrell]. Possibly more."

In the parish of St. Bruno, sex is easy, corruption festers, and double-dealing is a way of life. Rene Shade is an uncompromising detective swimming in a sea of filth.

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Published April 28th 2011 by Mulholland Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Daniel Woodrell, in my imagination, stares at his keyboard before choosing words, like he's afraid if he uses too many he'll mess up. That literary fastidiousness pays off, with interest, in the three crime novels that comprise The Bayou Trilogy.

The novels included here, republished in one volume most likely to cash in on the post-Winter's Bone publicity, revolve around the fictional neighborhood of Frogtown, a far-south run-down criminal playground with its own noir-ish rules and legends. The
I haven’t read very much that could be considered “noir” but I really enjoyed these. It was rewarding to read them in sequence, because I grew more and more attached to the characters and setting with each one.

Under the Bright Lights is an introduction to Rene Shade, a lifetime resident of St. Bruno, Louisiana, and a resigned, morally ambiguous detective.

He was not guided by a total love of law, but he was more for it than against it and this, he felt, made him reasonable. And that was the sum
Overall, 3 stars. This was an interesting study in the life of the Bayou, focused on Officer Rene Shade and his friends and family. The first two books were pretty good, with Officer Shade solving a couple of crimes. With the third book, the author completely lost any semblance of a plot and it turned into almost a soap opera. The only saving grace was the narration expertly performed by Bronson Pinchot. If I didn't know otherwise, I would have guessed he's from Rural Louisiana.

Under the Bright
The books that make up The Bayou Trilogy are a slight departure from Woodrell's other novels in that instead of featuring the Ozarks, these novels take place in Louisiana along the bayou. There's still the noir-aspect that one sees in Tomato Red, which I guess he coined the term "country noir" to describe his writing. I'm intrigued by that, because in the back of the edition of the trilogy is an author Q&A in which Woodrell states that he dislikes the labels given to his writing.
Your style
May 25, 2011 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
**Under the Bright Lights**

Here is how Daniel Woodrell distinguishes his crime fiction from the multitude:

"The pecking order of the homegrown juice merchants and trigger jerkers, green-felt Caesars, and snow-shoveling cowboys was likened to a vivid Chicago of the memory. And in this urban simile, if Auguste Beaurain, a force so devious, potent, and dangerous that he'd never even been hooked for a parking ticket, was a scaled-down Capone, and Steve Roque an irritating Spike O'Donnell, then surely
Apr 15, 2013 Jamie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-dirty-south
This was like one of those cakes that has all the right ingredients, and sounds so delicious, but you overcook it and botch up the measurements and all those ingredients combine into something so unholy and so... not delicious.

I don’t know. Despite appearances, this was not on my wavelength at all. Everyone here knew they were in this gritty noir and were so smug about it and nobody acted just plain human without all these affectations (ugh) that got in the way of the story. I wanted to sink St
Apr 26, 2012 Pati rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
Better than Cormac McCarthy, for sure, but not that great. I don't know in which Louisiana town Woodrell did his research, but none of them I know has black, white, and Cajun neighborhoods. Not many houses have basements, either. The plot reminds me of Donna Tartt (very suspenseful). But the details get in the way.

I couldn't take it anymore. Read the first story, but couldn't stomach the next two. Ugh.
Michael Twist
Jan 14, 2015 Michael Twist rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Woodrell introduces us to a passel of lurid characters that never fail to entertain. He runs the fine satirical line between mocking them and making these characters real and relatable. Demonstrating a thorough understanding of the Bayou's seedy underside, Woodrell crafts fascinating stories that lead you down a path you know rarely ends well, but can't help but treading anyway.
Barry Graham
Aug 10, 2011 Barry Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading an interview with Daniel Woodrell in Your Flesh magazine in the mid-1990s. In it, Woodrell said he had no desire for mainstream acceptance, contrasting himself with those writers who are outsiders only because they haven't been allowed in. Comparing mainstream popularity to a tent, he said he was one of those who belonged outside the tent.

More recently, he has said that he realized that in choosing to write the books he does, he was effectively taking a vow of poverty. Althoug
Rene Shade is a detective in the Parish of St. Bruno, Louisiana. However, as a series, this is not really a detective story. In the beginning we focus on a man (Shade) who straddles the fence of legality in a town where he is both a former local celebrity as a boxer and a longtime acquaintance and relation to most of the seedy underside of St. Bruno. Gritty and callous as he is, Shade has a sense of honor unassailable by friendship or blood, and he finds himself the odd man out in most situation ...more
John Hood
Jun 12, 2011 John Hood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bound: Down on the Bayou

SunPost Weekly May 19, 2011 | John Hood

Daniel Woodrell Writes the Lives Behind its Crimes

As the Atchafalaya River Basin begins to flood one can’t help thinkin’ that maybe the authorities have read Daniel Woodrell and come away believin’ the folks who live in that swampy stretch of nowhere don’t deserve saving as much as everybody else. That’s a mean thing to consider, of course, let alone to say right out loud for everyone to hear. But had you just wa
Review published on Reviewing the Evidence website in August:

Although Daniel Woodrell has been earning the respect of critics and cultivating a devoted fan base for quite some time, his self-coined “country noir” novels have garnered renewed attention in the last year, thanks to the astounding success of the movie adaptation of his 2006 novel Winter's Bone. This spring, three of Woodrell’s early novels—starring his shambling Creole detective Rene Shade—ha
Oct 10, 2012 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, crime, read_2012
"...there was Frogtown, the white-trash Paris, where the wide brown flow of rank water scented all the days, and everfy set of toes touched bottom."

Flecks of dried blood and dirt stick equal in Woodrell’s look at small town where multiple criminal entities thrive on their unlawful activities. The down trodden and hopeless sense of conformance with poverty is delivered in poetic-like fashion. Equal billing to the just and unjust alike is given throughout the trilogy to paint a picture perfect gli
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
"This was Frogtown, where the sideburns were longer, the fuses shorter, the skirts higher and expectations lower, and he loved it"

On the steamy and seedy shores of the Louisiana Bayou, Detective Rene Shade walks a fine line between law and loyalty in Saint Bruno where he was born and raised. This trilogy combines three loosely connected stories of crime and justice in the shadows of Frogtown and Pan Fry.
The first story, Under the Bright Lights, has Shade, and his partner How Blanchette, investi
Matthew Peck
May 02, 2012 Matthew Peck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't often read 'crime novels' - not out of disdain, but because of personal taste. I've read and been engrossed by a few Denis Lehane books, but I probably wouldn't have opened them at all if they weren't set in Boston, with landmarks I know so well. I decided to try Daniel Woodrell after watching the film of 'Winter's Bone' and reading some not-so-faint critical praise. And now this fanboy wants to read everything he's published.
UNDER THE BRIGHT LIGHTS (1982) - Woodrell's body of work is s
Michele Weiner
Nov 27, 2011 Michele Weiner rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michele by: President Obama
I have read many gritty books in my time, and I can enjoy a hard-boiled tale of the less fortunate classes. Tana French's Faithful Place about a working class neighborhood in Dublin had a wonderful sense of place and a well-constructed plot. The Fighter also provided a window into a specific place and time, and a group of characters who came alive, who were fascinating and complete, and sympathetic on some level. Bayou Trilogy portrays the same kind of working class neighborhood that people don' ...more
Nov 12, 2013 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection is fantastic. I was blown away. Daniel Woodrell has such a wicked way with language and I found myself re-reading passages out loud just so I could let the words out into the world. His characters are flawed and funny and real; I could not help but root for some of them even as they were heading down a clearly marked path to destruction. In the interest of full disclosure, I bought this book because I had picked it up off a table in Green Apple Books and was reading the back when ...more
Oct 31, 2011 Cat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Woodrell's books in the wrong order. Winter's Bone is so luminous and character-driven, that it's hard to switch into the broader, more violent (seriously!), and faster paced world of the popular hard-boiled murder mystery after that. And I'm a fan of hard-boiled crime fiction! Woodrell does a great job setting up the atmosphere of the bayou, and I do really enjoy the way he sets out former boxer and police detective Rene Shade as his investigating figure and sets him in a family where so ...more
Ronald Roseborough
Three crime novels are collected in this book chronicling the gritty life of Detective Rene Shade. His portion of hell on earth is the Parish of St. Bruno, Louisiana. A place where the wildlife on the streets is ever bit as dangerous as that in the bayou. Shade is part French and part Irish with the temperament of a Louisiana gator. He got his education on the streets and in the ring. The fact that he turned out working for the law instead of against it is still a subject of talk in many corners ...more
The book as a trilogy far exceeded the books inside the binding.

The Rene Shade story was great during the first two chapters prior to The Ones You Do chapter. The third series of the book stole my attention for two weeks. Entirely too long for the story itself to hold my interest. It came down to the fact that the first two stories, regardless of their shortcomings, were intimately readable. The third book in the story was a fabrication of what Woodrell thought made the first two books good.

We a
Dec 23, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
“Shade was about sixty stitches past good-looking…”

Welcome, to St. Bruno parish. A sweaty, tough, bayou town, filled with rough and tumble characters, residing in pool halls and taverns, crafting dirty deals and crooked connections. Rene Shade, ex-boxer, born and raised in this gritty hamlet, is now a detective, trying to navigate his way, through this swampy, southern outpost.
This collection, contains Woodrell’s first three books, all set in St. Bruno and it’s a perfect introduction to the work
Jun 02, 2011 Spiros rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aficionados of steamy, hard-boiled prose
Shelves: new
The "four star" rating above represents an aggregate, since this trilogy represents three independently constructed novels. UNDER THE BRIGHT LIGHTS and MUSCLE FOR THE WING would have gotten "three star" ratings, THE ONES YOU DO, where Woodrell hits his stride as the author I'm familiar with from such "hillbilly noirs" as Give us a Kiss, Tomato Red, and Winter's Bone, would rate "five stars".
By the end of THE ONES YOU DO, I found myself so engrossed in the Shade Family that I am kind of surprised
Sep 13, 2016 Rana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author calls his writing "country noir" and I think that's extremely apt. As is calling this hard-boiled detective stories. This collection of novels shows a clear progression of the author's writing; from the first to the last character development increases exponentially. By the end of the book (the third story), you are a part of the Shade family and want to keep reading about their lives.

But really, at the heart of my five stars is that the language is just simply amazing. Snappy, witty
Martin Baltz
Dec 17, 2015 Martin Baltz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never write reviews, due to a sheer lack of go get 'em, but I love this author. I was driving down the road, listening to NPR, when I heard the "The Bayou Trilogy" was on Obama's summer reading list, so I decided to check it out.

Gut-wrenchingly descriptive, is the only way I could describe his style of writing, and his protagonists tend to be heavily flawed, but with just enough underlying moral fiber - just like I like 'em.

"Tomato Red" is my favorite of his novels so far, perhaps because the
May 30, 2011 wally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: woodrell
I've read Tomato Red, enjoyed that one, so I figure to give this one a shot. So far (7%) so good. Reminds me (this one does) of some of Elmore Leonard's stuff.

these are good stories, three of them, and they concern a fictional area of the mississippi and louisiana that is as real as any other place. like the brothers karamazov, the shade brothers disagree at times, and the old man is nothing to brag about and is the cause of much of their problems or not and how they deal with them, or not and
Mar 17, 2011 Karin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is a copy I won from Goodreads,thank you so much.Not to sound unappreciative,the three stories in this book are so tough to read because the author tries too hard to be witty and toung in cheek.What is meant to be friendly banter between the characters turns into sarcasm and cynicism which is somehow out of proportion to the gravity of the particular plot.(Now I'm doing it!) The metaphors are so convaluted ,while I'm trying to figure out what they mean I've forgotten what the story is abou ...more
Jennifer B.
I really wanted to like this... I mean, Bayou Noir??? However, it just didn't do it for me. Not one likable character in the bunch, and none that were even despicable enough to be fun to despise. Just a bunch of sweaty, nasty people doing nasty things to other sweaty, nasty people which doesn't affect anyone outside their sweaty, nasty world.
Feb 19, 2012 J.D. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the first two books in the 3-in-1 volume for their almost mythic sense of place, the vivid characters, and the rich, evocative use of language. I struggled to finish the third one, however, because even though it had all of the above, the plot just wandered all over and robbed the central story of a lot of its suspense. Woodrell's later work is exceptional, particularly Winter's Bone.
Nov 22, 2011 Bentley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Three books featuring detective Rene Shade. Daniel Woodrell is very talented and a great read. Similar to Burke although I think Cormac McCarthy is a more superior wordsmith. However, Woodrell has a sarcastic way with words which fits this genre well.
Sep 16, 2015 Jerome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it's because I'm from Missouri, but I like Woodrell's rough and tumble stories about Missouri's lower denizens of the South part of the state.
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More about Daniel Woodrell...

Other Books in the Series

Rene Shade (3 books)
  • Under the Bright Lights
  • Muscle for the Wing
  • The Ones You Do

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“The old man had been tanned by the light of too many beer signs, and it just goes to show that you can’t live on three packs of Chesterfields and a fifth of bourbon a day without starting to drift far too fuckin’ wide in the turns.” 7 likes
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