Tough Guys Don’t Dance

Tough Guys Don’t Dance, by Norman Mailer, another book that I had to read for my fiction appreciation class.  Much like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, this book had it’s good and bad parts, but ultimately didn’t work for me overall.  Anyway, on with the full review.

Book Stats

229 pages (hardcover)

Stand alone book



The book follows Tim Madden, a freelance writer whose wife recently left him.  He isn’t a terribly successful writer, but he also hasn’t been writing much since his wife left him.  He is not a very likable character as he spends a large portion of the book drunk and another large portion of the book talking about his sexual encounters (and there are plenty of them in the book).  The book also shows many of the people that he interacts with in his small town.


The story is set in Provincetown near Cape Cod.  The town is a tourist attraction as it is one of the original locations that the Pilgrims landed.  However, since the book occurs in November, there are no tourists in the book and the town is mostly deserted.


The plot of this book was brilliantly conceived.  The book is a murder-mystery not unlike others that we’ve all read before.  The main difference here is that instead of the viewpoint characters being a Holmes or Watson, brought in from the outside to solve the case, Tim is not only intricately involved with all of the people in the story, but is also a suspect in the crimes as he doesn’t recall everything that happened the night of the murder.  He was drunk and doesn’t recall most of the night in question.  We follow Tim as he tries to figure out what happened that night.


The book had a beautiful premise and an interesting set-up, but was horribly executed.  At least 25-30% of this book is either completely unnecessary or simply profane for no reason other than being profane.  If I wasn’t reading this for a class I wouldn’t have gotten past the first 3 chapters.  Combine this with a horrible Deus Ex Machina towards the end of the book and I was left with a horrible taste from the book.

Overall Grade

If you’re a writer and you want to see an interesting way to look at telling a classic mystery story, you could do with reading this book (and hopefully you could tell a better story using a similar premise).  If you aren’t a writer looking for a different way to tell a familiar story, stay away from this book.


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