Review: Wire to Wire
By Scott Sparling
(Tin House Books)
By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Okay, Michigans in this book: Wire to Wire by Scott Sparling (Tin House Books).
Detroit. Hell. Traverse City. Charlevoix. Wolverine (not the real Wolverine, another Wolverine). So I get to review it. Here goes. Hold on to your seat.
Wire to Wire is called a stunning homage to one of our most popular and enduring genresthe American Crime novel by the publishers.
Oh yeah? Lets just sink into this down and dirty mystery (?) with mean drug dealers and murdering creeps, with one stoned protagonist and his freight car jumping friend. Oh, and dont forget the womenevery single female character is dropped like mud on the page, for sex, for titillation, or to die. Their choice. Well, somebodys choice.
A book of shadowsincomplete people. Michael Slaters on a journey to find . . . something. Never sure what. First he gets zapped in the head with an electric wire someplace near Detroit and has this stunning ability to see things he shouldnt be seeing; all kinds of things like ghosts and the past and maybe a hazy present. In the meantime hes busy having sex dreams and flying high on drugs like Smiling O, little white pills marked with a curved line inside the letter Oa smiley face with no eyesand rumored to contain equal parts of amphetamine and cornstarch and talking his man code that excludes all women readers on purpose.
Maybe a woman shouldnt be reviewing this book but I got the assignment so Im treating it the way Id treat any bookany purported mysteryand go looking for story and characters I might identify with, and the settingthe real Michigan that doesnt just pop out of some drunken dream.
Here comes Northern Michigan. Hope you recognize some of these facts:
In fact, half of white northern Michigan was on relief
Northern Michiganians are all lost souls and losers...
Theyre all people smiling and hiding their teeth.
Just a bunch of idiots.
How about: If youre seeking a pleasant peninsula, youre about a hundred years too late.
And those are the nice things.
We get into the story, eventually, and Slater doesnt quite kill a horse-murderer who needs killing (sending Slater up in my estimation because I firmly believe in justice), though somehow the guy didnt die and was free to pursue Slater (ahh, mystery at last, the avenging bad guy). So Slaters free of the Sonoran desert where hes gone to some kind of odd rehab that surely didnt take, and off to Michigan and Wolverine (which isnt the real Wolverine, remember, because you can see the Sleeping Bear from this Wolverine).
Lots of characters to get to. Were at the bottom of the food chain here. Weve got crooked undersheriffs and drug dealers and prostitutes and sleazy dancers. The women are interchangeable and might as well all be known as Tit since thats what connects them (which does bring up an odd, motherly, visual).
Then theres a freezer full of dead women, and let me seeoh yeah, theyre all the spreadables anyway, for obvious reasons, and totally interchangeable.
But lets not leave our main character for too long. Hes been busyseeing his ghosts and visuals of life, and bedding his best friends girl, and doing his drugs and wondering why life is so bad.
Does this book make me mourn the death of the old noir stuff: the sex and drugs and little story stuff? Not on your life.
By page 209, Id had enough. I found myself hoping for a meteor strike on this putative Wolverine and wishing that electric wire in Detroit had been a little lower.
I think Im hopping a freight train for Oregon, where this writer is from, and do a little looking around out there while on Smiley Os and Quaaludes and see if Oregons got any decent people who live ordinary lives. Doubt Ill find any.
Stunning? Yes, but for all the wrong reasons. I thought they stopped writing books like this a long time ago. For darned good reasons.
Scott Sparling will sign copies of his book on Wednesday, July 13, 5:30 pm at Mclean and Eakin Bookstore in Petoskey; Thursday, July 14, 6-8 pm at Horizon Books in TC; and Friday, July 15, 7 pm at Brilliant Books in Suttons Bay.