Nightwise by R.S. Belcher
I literally just finished this book. I believe the only appropriate reaction I can cobble together in this moment is HOLY FUCKING SHIT!
I am now intent on hunting down more books by this author. How is it no one ever mentioned him? How did I miss out on this for so long? I feel cheated, CHEATED. This book has only been out a few months, but still, there are other books and I intend to know about them.
Ok, ok, let me calm down a bit. Deep breaths, calm....Nope, Still excited as hell. Please accept my apologies for my unladylike language, but this book requires a more...um...downhome vocabulary.
First thing. If Bronson Pinchot narrates something, I will listen. I recommend all of you listen. If you find a recording of him reading a dictionary, buy it! Telephone listings, the syllabus of your freshman year English Lit class, whatever. I have the hardest time matching up his magnificent reading voice with my memory of him as Balki. That voice is chocolate, silk, and woodfire smoke, puppies and kittens, beach sand and good tequila. Enough said.
Second thing. Gritty. Dark. Deep down darkness that made me wince a time or two but would not let me go. This goes beyond noir, goes to extremes Chandler couldn't have gotten past the editor. The style of this writing jangles back and forth between bone breaking blues and Appalachia hymns.
The story is that of a powerful man who was born to magic, but also with a healthy dose of ego and stubborn determination to get what he wants. He's lived a bad life, mostly because he's traded away bits of himself to try to help others on occasion. Mostly he's a conniving bastard, a hillbilly, a child of the mountains who grew up hard and lived hard, who brings trouble in his wake and tries to protect those who befriend him by being an asshole and chasing them off "for their own good". It's almost like Sandman Slim had a cousin, kinda sorta. That's not a good comparison, but it works.
Warning -- we run into some dead dogs in this story, but we don't see them die and I was able to skip past it in 30 seconds. We also witness some horrible mistreatment of expensive Mont Blanc fountain pens, which almost hurt as bad, but they were rehomed so that's ok. That's how grim this is. We won't even worry about the body count, including people being casually tossed under the figurative bus.
We have blood, we have kinky sex (totally makes sense to me that magic and kink would be lined up with one another), we have the mishmash of traditions from all over the world, we have money and drugs and liquor and Cheerwine. Characters come from all over, each one walking onto the stage and taking up space, and some of these characters are just not like anyone else I've run into. Rather, they are very much like MANY people I've run into (and called friends or family) but not quite in these combinations.
What's best about this is the mystery itself, the question that runs through the book -- "What is the Greenway?" Every conspiracy theory about the founding of the USA is woven in here. In one section, what might have been a really boring info dump turned into a fascinating examination on the idea of money, the abstract concept of it. This isn't a dumb book. It's not even a somewhat smart book. This book is sharp and it pokes at things, pries open the ideas it wants to play with and spreads them around, but most of the time the reader has to put it all together herself. Eventually there's a check answer page of sorts.
Remember that itch I've been having, the one that wants gritty and dark? This is aloe, baby, Benadryl Gel. It's not bloody and gruesome for the sake of it. Everything fits into place neatly, everything is reasonable and rational within the framework given. There's just so MUCH.
I am hoping really hard this is the first of a series because I want more. I'm also a little pissed that this might be the first in a series because that means I have to wait. I hate waiting. But if Belcher can keep up this kind of music, I am so fucking there.