by Benjamin Whitmer
Hardcover, 320 pages
(Expected publication: September 16th 2014) by Gallery Books
Set in the badlands of Colorado, outside of the city of Denver, Benjamin Whitmer has produced a story as dark, gritty and violent as anything that has been written by Cormac McCarthy or Denis Johnson with Cry Father. The main character, Patterson, living off the grid in the Colorado mountains, narrates the story by way of letters that he writes to his dead son, as a way to deal with his grief. He is entwined with other denizens of the inhospitable wilderness such as Junior, a violent and anti-social drug runner who has issues with his father Henry, who is a friend of Patterson’s- this triangle will deal heavily with the issues of fatherhood, and desertion throughout the story.
The violence explodes off the page with realistic depictions of death, and the fragility of the human body-there is nothing romantic about death within these pages. Junior and Patterson battle their separate demons on their own terms, and for most of the story they are frequently killing men (and a particularly tough woman), burying bodies, and drinking an extreme amount of alcohol, not to mention all of the cocaine. Everyday, the violence follows them as they are involved in bloody bar brawls, or drug deals gone bad. The story is more than the intense violence. It mainly deals with sons and their fathers- about the pain and emptiness that goes from one generation to the next, fostering a violent and resentful culture of abuse and abandonment. In the end, Patterson, Henry and Junior proceed down the road that they have built for themselves, culminating in a bizarre showdown that will leave some dead, and others just wishing that they were dead.
Cry Father is one of those books that while extremely dark and gritty, it delivers a coherent tale with a clear moral, as well as some adept psychological investigation of the human psyche. I look forward to following Mr. Whitmer’s career, as I am sure he will be producing some of my favorite books of the future. For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Nick Cave and Denis Johnson
(5 out of 5)