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Empty Mile

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  321 ratings  ·  43 reviews
When Johnny Richardson returns to Oakridge he has one thing on his mind--correcting a terrible mistake that caused him to flee his hometown eight years ago. Revisiting the past, though, is a dark and dangerous game in small-town America. When a careless sexual episode leads to the suicide of the town’s first lady, Johnny finds himself the target of a revenge campaign that ...more
Paperback, 390 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Akashic Books (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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Mar 16, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This is copy number 47 of 85 signed numbered copies, signed by Matthew Stokoe.
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Aha! Just as I suspected.....Matthew Stockoe is a "real" author.

I say (type) that because the first book I read by Stokoe was Cows. Cows routinely makes lists such as "Most Depraved Work of Fiction" or "Most Disgusting..." etc, and it truly was an incredibly horrific story filled with the most awful scenes I have ever read. I initially thought Cows would be some sophomoric gross out story that sought only to offend people and in some ways it was. But I thought I detected some real writing in the
Andrew Nolan
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I finished this purely on the basis of the immense amount of goodwill Stokoe's previous two books have generated in me.

That this is nothing like either of those two books is not the issue, i think God Jr is one of Dennis Cooper's best books. Empty Mile is overly long with much time spent on gold panning (thrilling...), businesses selling plants and being responsible for the upkeep of those plants (thrilling...), and in combination with the main female character being a paper-thin shit-magnet who
ABC Group
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
Matthew Stokoe’s new novel is quite a departure from his previous work, High Life. Much more subdued and not nearly as shocking, Empty Mile tells the tale of Johnny Richardson, a man seeking reconciliation from his past transgressions. Upon his return home, Johnny finds out that making up for past sins is an exercise in futility. His life, and the lives of those he has affected, have changed too much in his 8 year departure for there to be a clean break with the past.

What’s striking is the norm
Jason Pettus
Apr 28, 2010 rated it liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

So I have to confess, it took an unusually large number of pages before I started sincerely really getting into the latest novel from our friends at Akashic Books, Matthew Stokoe's Empty Mile, because of it starting with a whole series of tropes endemic to a genre (noir) that I'm simply not a big fan of; a
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Nov 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: noir
Johnny returns home after a self-imposed exile and picks up right where he left off with his old girlfriend Marla and his malicious friend Gareth. Once again, Johnny is led into a lake of guilt he thought he could escape from. Voyeurism, blackmail and murder ensue. The theme of the damaged protagonist returning home to a pastoral town seething with corruption has been around from Blue City to Blue Velvet. If you like that type of story you'll like this one. Highly recommended. ...more
Michael Seidlinger
Jun 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Stokoe enters different territory with his latest book. Thankfully, it's refreshing enough while still containing the grit and grime we've come to expect from his work.

Not his best, but worth a read if you enjoyed Cows and High Life.
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely incredible noir. I was so engrossed the entire time. Finished the book through tears and the conclusion is so masterful with the understanding of guilt and the human condition. Stokoe is so talented... just WOW.
Sep 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
PROTAGONIST: Johnny Richardson
RATING: 3.75

They say you can never go home again, and maybe things would have turned out better if Johnny Richardson had heeded that advice. He’s spent the last eight years in London but finds he needs to return to the life he left behind so that he can make up for all the damage he caused before his departure. While on a trip to a lake with his brother and girlfriend, he succumbed to sexual desire and left Stan on his own. Stan entered the water and drowned, with J
Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
I almost abandoned this one, not because it isn't good, but because it is too good. Stokoe writes powerfully of bleak lives. The characters make no choices other than wrong choices, except, perhaps, for Stan. None the less, I couldn't help but care for and about them. When I first picked up this novel, I just couldn't continue to watch their train-wreck lives. You have to be in a relatively strong place for a novel like this; it is beyond noir.

It isn't only the land called Empty Mile that is emp
Mike Kazmierczak
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I first heard of Matthew Stokoe due to his novel COWS which was supposed to violent, bloody, gritty and an instant cult classic. In the search of that book, I first found EMPTY MILE and, of course, had to get it. While not violent, bloody or gritty, EMPTY MILE was still intriguing and very gripping. The characters and the story were both interesting and compelling.

Johnny Richardson returns to his home town of Oakridge in an effort to make up for a terrible mistake that in turn caused him to flee
Oct 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
I'm not sure if I should review this book since I only read 144 of the 391 pages. I'm not sure how I came to pick up this book. The story line is a man returning home after leaving home because of a trauma. While he was having sex with his girlfriend in the woods his brother came close to drowning. His brother ended up with brain damage after this. So now he's back and the first time he has sex with this same girl they are paid by a man to let him watch and masturbate. Come on, who would do this ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As much as I consider myself a fan of dark books, this one was ultimately unrewarding.
While the baser aspects of human nature should never be surprising when they emerge, in this book it seems as if pretty much every character
is twisted into pyscho-sexual pretzels. Sounds good, right? The problem is the protagonist. He's wracked by guilt at having left home 8 years earlier
and upon his return, the elements of his past that he'd been running from are waiting. Waiting and pissed. And perverted. Aga
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had never read a noir before, and the premise sounded interesting. Wow. Dark. As I read it, hoping against hope that things would turn out all right for these characters that I found I couldn't help caring for, I kept reminding myself that it was a it wasn't going to be peaches and cream. I did enjoy the book, the writing was good, I got sucked into the whole plot--the treasure hunt, the need for redemption. But, I like a happy ending, so I don't know that I will pursue this author ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The novel destroyed me.
Joshua Williams
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
A good reminder that I dont like noir.
Thomas Bowden
Aug 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Matthew Stokoe's third novel Empty Mile takes on a different tone than his other two previous works (Cows and High Life). While written in a similar noir style that High Life used, Empty Mile takes place in a rural setting focusing on Johnny as he returns to his small hometown from a self-imposed exile and tries to make amends.
With Cows and High Life Stokoe almost bludgeoned the reader with scene after scene of heinous acts of sex and violence, Empty Mile takes on a noticeably more subdued ap
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
A blah book. I didn't mind the story. It kept me fairly interested. But the character's conflicts were annoying and unrealistic. ...more
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm torn about how many stars to give this, and if I could I guess I'd probably give it three-and-a-half stars. It's a very powerful book in many ways, with a lot of focus on the nature of guilt and the heavy consequences it can have on lives lived under the shadow of it. It suggests that sometimes trying to correct the wrongs of the past can be an exercise in futility. It takes a strong stomach to get through some of what happens to some of the characters the reader comes to care about. Near th ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I'm not sure how this found its way into my Amazon wish list, as I'm not a mystery reader and never heard of Stokoe before. But since it was there, I grabbed it as I tend to do with wish-list books on sale, and dove in.

Abandoned at chapter 29. I get it, it's noir. So very very depressingly, at times disgustingly noir. Here at the halfway mark, we have a poverty of likable characters of any substance. Major characters with any initial depth and sympathetic qualities actually seem to lose depth as
Scott Bagley
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was right up the middle for me. I've been on a real heavy noir kick, and I tried this one, my first by this author. It was really close to being both outstanding and mediocre. Some of it - maybe it was just me - felt a little, uh, soap-operalike. Other parts were some of the most heartfelt and sorrowful I've read in a long, long time. Parts of it dragged and didn't seem to drive the plot, all the while knowing that there was some pretty basic parts of the plot that needed driving. I kn ...more
Susan Coleman
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
The cover blurb from Michael Connelly reads, "Beautifully written and deeply gripping." I found it to be neither. Each and every character was so deeply flawed (especially the rapist, rabbit killing, brow-beater of the mentally challenged, revenge obsessed Jeremy Tripp) to be thoroughly unbelievable and unrelateable. One of the key elements in fiction writing is that every weak character must have some strength, every evil baddy have some positive element to his character and good guy have some ...more
Jul 26, 2010 rated it liked it
noir in northern California, this is a solid, though perhaps overly long novel of people from a small town. it may be slow in small towns but memories are long, and tend to fester. this is stokoe's novel of small town festering. Author became famous for his "high Life" noir novel. and he has a new one coming out in 2011 called "Cows", a noir about usa beef and slaughter industry. Ken Bruen and Dennis Cooper and Janet Fitch blurbed the author, but not really this particular title. ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I think that this book was well written-but hideously depressing. As bleak as anything I have ever read. While I prefer my mysteries on the dark side, this one was to much for me.

Michael Connelly has a comment on the cover, and that is why I picked it up. There is no way I would suggest that anyone read this book. While reading it, I was wondering why one or more of the characters didn't kill themselves. Not a good thought while you are trying to concentrate on the story!
Dan Billings
Nov 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ironically, I finished this book while watching Twin Peaks. Similar to the first few episodes I have watched, Empty Mile is about the dark side of a small town that wraps around a hunt for wealth and happiness. This book was interesting enough, but definitely not the greatest thriller I have read. The characters were intriguing and smug. I may try to find other works by the author.
Melanie  H
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Leading man cannot escape sins of the past. Okay, I can live with it. *** spoiler alert: the girl you left behind becomes a hooker and is sexually humiliated through out the book because her loser boyfriend left her. Really, it's too much of a stretch for me. ...more
William Prystauk
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Though not as strong or as compelling as "Cows" and "High Life", this is a decent thriller. What amazes one most is how Stokoe creates characters that the reader will despise so completely, the audience can't wait for them to perish. ...more
John Mccaffray
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Started off well, but I felt it descended into quite unbelievable scenarios. One more depraved than the next. I found it hard to believe the main character could experience such things without going ballistic. Story just seemed to fade off at the end.
Josh Warfel
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stokoe steps away from his shock factor and shows us just how great of a writer he is. A man finding himself and rediscovering his family falls into a Breaking Bad Style scenario. Wonderfully written and engaging I cannot recommend it enough.
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