Claire Vaye Watkins has an infamous father. I don’t point this out in a salacious “looky here” way, but this father looms large over the first story in this collection. Her father is Tex Watson, yes, that Tex Watson. Murderer. Manson Family member. Currently and indefinitely imprisoned Tex Watson who married a prison pen pal and fathered four children while in jail. Claire wrests the reins from her father, her family, and her history to tell her own story- and it’s a doozy.
All of the stories in this volume will break your heart…but you will wait in line for it to happen like the 49ers, tourists, lost children, and down and out losers that populate this book. You’ll wait in line for your broken heart, and quickly pay another dollar into the video poker machine to feel it fall apart again. You can smell the beer soaked carpets. You can feel yourself fall in too deep with her wounded and wandering women. When she writes “It was an inevitable kiss. A kiss like I had caught the hem of my skirt on the seat of my bike while trying to mount it, and toppled. A kiss like we had fallen into each other, which I suppose we had” you will feel that tug running through your body down through the soles of your feet.
Battleborn is full of ghosts. These ghosts kick around in the American West, mostly floundering about in Reno but sometimes rushing Westward towards promises of the Golden State. The ghosts live in trailers behind brothels, drink warm beer in churches, and sneak into their sibling’s houses to secretly wash the dust out of their laundry. For every mountain of dirt there is a tiny fleck of gold luring you further into the mess.