By Jennifer Jordan
Over at his blog Benjamin Whitmer said that crime fiction is “supposed to be scary”. He also says that noir isn’t “supposed to be the police procedurals and wisecracking detective serials that dominate the crime shelves” and that they should be something different: “This is nightmare, hunker-down-in-your-soul, how-deep-can-you-dig, release-the-fucking-bats territory.”
Benjamin Whitmer makes these tenants Bible truth in his debut novel Pike. With this novel Whitmer announces his presence with a kick to the teeth and he is the real deal.
One of the things that strikes me about Pike is the clarity of the writing. It says what it needs to say in the clearest and most direct way possible. The prose is so clear that it enhances the power of the story.
Clearly this is a novel that has been carefully gone over numerous times to makes sure there are no snags. Pike strives for a level of realism in violent actions and weaponry that feels more blunt and powerful when compared to more stylized offerings. There is something almost elemental in the character Pike as if he sprung whole from somewhere other, somewhere more powerful. Pike is possessed of a deliberateness in his actions that that adds to this notion of him being more a force then a man – or at least a force of a man. Pike as the titular character is the one we get to know the most. We see from his past that he is not a good guy, at all. But there is this barest hint of something approaching decency at this stage in his life. He’s not good, he’ll never be good, but there are a couple of facets of him that aren’t totally bad.
Pike may just might be the best noir novel that we’ve seen in years, a true black novel if there ever was one. I won’t name names but much of the purported noir class of crime fiction just can’t hold a candle to what is on display here, Pike is hardcore and the real deal all others are pale imitators. In a just world Pike will salt the Earth, forcing others to re-examine what can be done with the form.