Friday, June 29, 2012

Book review: "The Wowzer" by Frank Wheeler, Jr.

The Wowzer review
Author: Frank Wheeler, Jr.
5out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: “Country Noir”/Crime fiction Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free paperback ARC galley from the Amazon Vine Last Harvest program in exchange for an honest review. This review may also be seen on my blog, Now is Gone, with formatting and other bits that can’t be translated into strictly alpha-numeric reviews.

Synopsis: In the Arkansas Ozarks, old-timers spin tales of the Wowzer, a giant panther-like creature that decapitates those who wander too far into the woods.

County sheriff's deputy Jerry was raised on Wowzer stories, but they aren’t enough to stop him from carrying out his own business in the remote hills. Jerry's more than a sheriff's deputy; he moonlights as muscle for local drug traffickers, who sometimes need people to get hurt – or get dead. Fortunately, Jerry's pretty good at his job. And since Tom Haskell runs the sheriff's office and the drug-protection racket, Jerry doesn’t see much of a moral dilemma. That is, until he starts thinking about getting out of the trade, and then things get complicated fast. For starters, Jerry's girl Maggie flees the state after learning about a disturbing diagnosis tucked inside Jerry's psych report. And now Sheriff Haskell is dragging his feet paying Jerry his cut of the drug money. Is Haskell just reluctant to lose his top muscle? Or is he plotting to take out the man who knows his dirtiest secrets? Fans of hardboiled, “country noir” fiction will love gnashing on Frank Wheeler's violent and darkly comic debut, sneaking a glimpse into the mind of a killer whose inner monster is about to be unleashed.

My Thoughts: Anticipating reading this, I was trying to decide whether the Wowzer would actually play a part – was there actually a strange creature? Or maybe we would have some shape-shifting fun! At any rate, it sounded like a pretty entertaining read, so I was pretty stoked to find it in Amazon Vine’s Last Harvest program.

The “voice” is wonderfully done; I can hear Jerry’s voice in my head clear as day, and Wheeler does a good job at giving each of his characters a slightly different, unique, and well-derived voice as well. It is impossible to read this story without hearing a strong, Arkansas drawl in your head whenever Jerry is narrating or talking. I’m even finding myself starting to talk with a drawl and bad grammar, something that 10 ½ years of living in Georgia hasn’t accomplished! I also liked how people are described; since Jerry has been in law enforcement for 10 years, he has a tendency toward “cop-speak” at times, including his descriptions. Each person is described by full name, race, age, height, weight, and eye and hair color. I found it rather refreshing.

Now, Jerry isn’t your typical hero, obviously – he’s a sociopath at best, psychopath at worst, with some serious psychological issues verging on OCD and a phobia of dogs (one that is quite justified); he’s involved in the drug trade and he’s a corrupt cop. But he’s not all bad – he truly adores Maggie and he has a little dachshund he calls Schnitzel, and he takes care of his grandma. Maggie is a hypocrite, and I don’t care much for hypocrites; you’ll understand once you read it, but I can safely say that one of the things she’s upset about with Jerry is that he’s involved with the drug trade, but she smokes a lot of that cannabis, so I’m having a hard time finding much sympathy for her thoughts on the matter. That’s not to say Jerry is an innocent in the matter, but I found her attitude distasteful.

So, you’re probably wondering about the question of the Wowzer; is it a myth? Is it an animal? Is it a shape-shifter? Well, I am certainly not going to tell you, because that would spoil all the fun, now, wouldn’t it? But let me tell you something: if you liked movies like Snatch or Hot Fuzz, where you had violence and dark humor in about equal quantities (and the great anti-hero, like in Snatch), then you will probably enjoy this book a great deal. Be sure to look it up and check it out.

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