Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pike, by Benjamin Whitmer

Reading this excellent debut novel filled my veins with ice and slapped me with tunnel vision like I was in the cage throwing fists with a scarred beast who wanted my liver fried with onions for supper. Unflinching human brutality and how the survivors of that war defend their own. Set in the small towns of Ohio, Whitmer brings the ramshackle landscape littered with human wreckage to life with a raw knuckled poetry that left me awed at times, and gut punched in others. That's not to say this is some overwritten dirge; it is cut to the bone, and deceptive in teasing endearment for its damaged heroes and villains.
Pike messed up his life coming up, and when presented with his newly orphaned granddaughter Wendy, looks to find how her mother died. He has an adoptive son named Rory with his own demons, a bareknuckle fighter looking to break into boxing, and their lives collide with a Heart of Darkness cop named Derrick who keeps the lid on Cincinnati's underground by ruling it with a knuckleduster fist.
I had to read it in small doses. It set my temples afire with visions of dead-end lives and self-inflicted damnation. But it was worth every page. I am no fan of nihilism or "squalor porn," and Whitmer does not wallow in such. I read this alongside another powerful debut novel also set in Ohio- The Devil All the Time, by Donald Ray Pollock- and these fellows, like Frank Bill in Indiana, are mining deep veins in the Midwest, plucking brilliant anthracite from these small towns.

An amazing novel that I give my highest recommendation.

© 2012 Thomas Pluck I post on Twitter as TommySalami ~ My Facebook Page


Nik Korpon said...

Glad you dug it, Tommy. I recommend this book to just about everyone I meet. Have you read the Louvin Bros book yet? I've heard a lot of good things but haven't gotten round to it yet.

Thomas Pluck said...

Not yet! I want it, though. I never listened to those fellas but their story reads like a hell of a book.

Aa2579 said...

Been meaning to read this since Bouchercon. Thanks for the reminder.

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