Friday, August 21, 2009

Review: The Wolfman by Nicholas Pekearo

The normal way to review a book is to summarize its plot---or at least its hook---and then detail what you like and don't like. Well, for Nicholas Pekearo's first novel The Wolfman I'm going to focus on voice.


Oh sure, I could tell you that The Wolfman is a fast-paced thriller mixing supernatural horror with gritty crime noir. I could even tell you the hook: Marlowe Higgins----Vietnam Vet, frycook, recovering alcoholic and werewolf----uses the curse of his monthly transformation to hunt down and kill a supremely bad person each month. But instead of my yammering lets look at the opening lines of the novel:

Let me paint a picture for you: The full moon was bulbous and yellow like the blind and rotted eye of a witch that peered down from the murky sky with bad intentions, and a million little stars shone down on the sleepy Southern town of Evelyn. The breeze was gentle and cool, carrying on it the scent of flowers and wet earth from the recent rain spell. The only thing missing was the children singing hymns, and I'm sure it would have been enough to make someone happy to be alive. (11)

This, to me anyway, is a great opener. You can tell right away the narrator, who we learn very quickly is Marlowe, is a smart but cocky prick with an eye for detail like some creepy version of Arthur Dove. It continues with passages like these throughout the novel:

When I blew into Evelyn one night a few years earlier, I was still hitting the sauce pretty hard. I initially drank because it made it easier to deal with being what I had become, but there came a point when I kind of accepted that part of myself, or at least became very stoic in a Marcus Aurelius kind of way. Still, I drank heavily when the mood struck me, and that mood usually urged me to go into a watering hole and pick a fight with somebody. I had a very wild hair growing in a very itchy place, and, to me, bars were made for two distinct purposes: for fisticuffs and to pick up broads. (41-42)

The Neo-Chandler voice intensifies here; with this little paragraph we learn our hero is not only smart, but well read. Not only cocky, but a tough guy constantly on the prowl for a fight. And he tops it all off with a bit of a dark sense of humor. To be honest, the voice really carries the book. As a mystery, the plot is very predictable. The secondary characters----which is pretty much everyone save Marlowe---are very thin. The werewolf mythology is vague, a little confusing and even a touch contradictory in parts.

But I loved this anyway. Marlowe lives in these pages, and that's something that only comes from real writing talent and passion. It's also why it's so sad that Pekearo died prior to seeing his first novel in print. We'll never really know what he could have done, and I find that incredibly sad.

So if you are intrigued by these passages, read some other reviews to get the plot. Or even better, pick up the book itself. It's worth it.


No comments: