Miles and Jack are back.
The Follow-up to Sideways
The future adventures of "Sideways" characters Miles and Jack find its original author, Rex Pickett, reclaiming not only his own story from the hit film but striking out in a bold -- and sober -- new direction.
The novel’s road trip puts four decidedly troubled human beings, plus a dog, into Miles’s rental rampvan heading for the [International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon]. Along with Miles, rolling in dough, and Jack, now divorced and so permanently pickled he can no longer get directing work in Hollywood, are Miles’s stroke-addled mother, Phyllis; her pot-smoking Filipina nurse, Joy; and his mom’s Yorkie, Snapper. Miles’s ill-fated scheme is to snatch his mom from the Southern California assisted-living facility she hates and take her, via Oregon, to her sister’s home in Wisconsin. While Miles and Jack wind up in beds with voracious women and in bottles neither could afford until recently, the trip is a disaster from the get-go.
"Vertical" is a real change in direction from "Sideways." The latter is a classic buddy story, the new novel a mother-and-son story. Pickett’s … character depictions are ruthlessly vivid and clear. Everyone is the captain of his or her own fate; blame belongs where it belongs, which is not on bad fathers, absent mothers or demanding ex-wives.
In the last chapters, as the journey heads from Oregon to Wisconsin, you sense the writer, clear-headed and determined, narrowing his focus on Miles and his mother. He insists they better understand each other and resolve a lifetime of distrust and hurt feelings. These passages contain the most powerful writing in the book.
The novel’s final note might spark controversy, but not here. The ending makes perfect sense; it’s one of supreme compassion and renewed hope.
-- Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
Rex Pickett's novel "Vertical" continues the picaresque adventures of Miles and Jack. It's a feast. You can't put it down. The humor and wit are irresistible. More than "Sideways," the previous novel, "Vertical" takes Miles to self-recognitions that are funny, painful, and illuminating -- especially his relations with women and, most especially, with his aged and dying mother.
Oenophiles will love the ride through Oregon to the annual Pinot Noir festival at McMinnville -- with its sloshing bacchanalia. At the same time, the stereotype of the road novel has been subverted here with the rampvan, the wheelchair-bound mother, her pot-smoking nurse, and the sad decline of Jack. At points in the novel, Miles and Jack are as lost and hopeless as Vladimir and Estragon, and the humor has an edge that is absurd and telling.
Pickett has taken his writing and his characters to another level. I recommend you read this novel and see for yourself.
-- Paul Dresman, Writing at the Edge
Rex [Pickett] shows that his gift for creating wildly funny scenes is quite intact. The book is laugh-out-loud funny.... In the course of the trip, the characters of Miles and his mother are well drawn. We come to like Miles more than we ever did in "Sideways," and nod knowingly about what he goes through... it is an entertaining and touching book.
-- Paul W. Jameson, NY Journal of Books
... But the story twists from the typical guys’ road trip to a mother-and-son story that I have to admit ends up so touching and redeeming it took me by surprise. In the end, it’s just Miles and Mom coming to peace with each other…and themselves, resolving a life of distrust and hurt feelings. The ending of VERTICAL totally elevated Miles/Pickett as a writer in my heart. Bittersweet…so unlike any of the Pinot Noirs on my list.
-- Bonnie Lee, The Virtual Scribe
Let me just get this out at the beginning: if you liked “Sideways” you will like “Vertical." That said, I think the sequel has quite a bit more depth and goes for a kind of redemption not seen in the dark comedy of “Sideways” ... the new book is as funny and profane as the last one with Pickett dreaming up a hilarious set-piece after Jack consumes too much Viagra ... It’s these comic moments that propel the reader further in the story …
“Vertical” is a darker book than “Sideways,” which I consider a black comedy. As funny as Miles drinking a spit bucket on command or being dunked in a vat of Charles Shaw Merlot is, there are other tragedies along their journey that don’t play for laughs. The final portion of the book follow the mother-son relationship between Phyllis and Miles as they deadhead across the prairie to Wisconsin. This gives “Vertical” a satisfying conclusion and a gravitas missing from “Sideways.” And as the story comes to its end, there is clearly plenty of room for a third book to be written but if the tale stops here the reader will be satisfied.
Rex Pickett is to be commended for producing a thoughtful sequel and not just churning out something to cash in on his success.
It’s unclear if “Vertical” will be made into a movie, but seems likely since the story here is as cinematic as the first. We can only hope that the original cast is enticed back to bring these characters back to life.
I enthusiastically recommend “Vertical” … if you do venture down the road with Miles and Jack you are likely to be satisfied and perhaps touched by the journey.
-- Tim Elliott, Wine Cast
"Sideways," ....is arguably the most influential wine-themed book that became a film in American history. The film "Sideways" grossed $300 million...and people are still debating whether it alone caused Pinot Noir sales to spike, or was merely a factor in the variety's astonishing success. Now we have the follow up story in "Vertical..."
-- Steve Heimoff, Wine Enthusiast