Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Peter Pan Must Die by John Verdon

Long Before the Killing Began

There was a time when he dreamt of being the head of a great nation.

Obviously this writer's strength lies in creating great titles and subtitles. In regards to the opening line, it has a hint of preamble. There isn't much difference between There was a time... and Once upon a time.... Is there?

Then the final sentence fragment of the first paragraph of the prologue, inserted like a thundering PS with a drum roll, is:

A nuclear power.


As president, he would have his finger on the nuclear trigger. With a twitch of that finger he could launch nuclear missiles... He could put an end to the human stink.

It's nice when a story starts with such a sympathetic pronoun. Come on, let's admit it, we've all felt this kind of rage and have all dreamed about there being fewer people around at some point in our lives. Actually, there is something to be said about starting off with the antagonist - and I assume this is the antagonist as I don't think too many people would be rooting for a sociopath protagonist wishing he could blow up the world. Beginning with a disturbed bad guy is a pretty common thing to do in prologues though.

Then we learn this pronoun has issues with The Nightmare (my capitalization) and a wheezing clown that hurts this pronoun for money. Honestly, this sort of hooks me, but alas, it is the prologue and the next page which is chapter 1 has absolutely nothing to do with the prologue, so I can't really be bothered to read on.

Chapter 1:

In the rural Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, August was an unstable month, lurching back and forth between the bright glories of July and the gray squalls of the long winter to come.

So we get some weather in the opening line. Nothing much interesting in this. However, the writer tries (rather feebly in my opinion) to connect this ...month that could erode one's sense of time and place to feeding a character's confusion, or more accurately, at least seeming to. That is to say, the weather is used to introduce a character's state of mind, whose name is, um, Gurney. Anyone like a metaphor with their cup of characterization?

Then we're thrown into some moldy back story about retirement, the wife, moving and kids. It's brief though, so that's good. Unfortunately, it's interrupted with more weather to begin paragraph 3.

First thing said:

"This is our secret."

This is what is said in the Nightmare. First thing a verified character says:

"Is that a tarn?"

By golly, I think it is. However, the characters are not sure and need to discuss it for a bit.

Verdict: Fail

I love the title. If I was reviewing just the title (As I get lazier, I just might start doing that), I'd give this five stars.

Theodore Moracht

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