Saturday, October 3, 2015

PIKE by Benjamin Whitmer

The holes they dug themselves into were exactly the shape of their dreams.
Whitmer's writing is contemporary noir in perfect pitch. Just like his title protagonist, his prose is muscular but spare. It only speaks when it has something to say, and when it has something to say, it packs a punch with very little. This is the type of fiction I love.
The book focuses on four damaged characters who know what they are and don't ask for sympathy. Pike, a hard-ass with a violent past who seems to be quietly enduring some sort of penance, his best friend Rory, an aspiring boxer who is haunted by his parents' deaths, training for one last shot at success by winning a tough man tournament (and has an unhealthy dependence on Vicodin), a corrupt Cincinnati cop that has his own twisted moral code, and a dirty-mouthed girl named Wendy who's 12-years-old-going-on-45, and happens to be the child of Pike's estranged daughter who has died recently of a supposed heroine overdose. These are strong characters and although I wanted a little more,  I was fascinated by how engaged I was with them, with such little information given.
"Take it from an ex-con, the market in redemption is running low."
Afterwards, I felt like I wanted to know more about Pike and Wendy, and more detail about how they change one another, but part of me feels that if Whitmer focused more on that, it would introduce a sentimentality that would be completely out of place here. This book features some of the most impressive writing I've read all year, and I'm excited to read more from this guy.
He smokes his cigarette until there's nothing but a smoldering scrap of paper between his fingers, staring at the tombstone as though some kind of answer might bloom out of it.
None does. He doesn't even have a good question.

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