C.S. DeWildt’s Love You to a Pulp packs two narratives, tight spirals driving like hammerdrills against the cranium til they breach the dark cavern beneath. You’ll know it when you get there underground with him.
In the first narrative glue-nose dick Neil McGrath sniffs out a mystery involving the pharmacist’s daughter in a Podunk southern town. In the second, McGrath is raised hard by a degenerate father. Drugs, violence, sex (& incest) propel the present. Booze, violence, sex (& incest) litter the past. The present arc comes off with varying degrees of coherence, owing in part to a protagonist warped by a lifetime of headblows and vapor trails. The past is blackness, full of cobwebs and caves, things too awful for a child to bear:
She whined as the filthy men ravaged her and she watched the boy, stumbling on newly found legs over the bottle-littered stead, looking at the scene periodically only when a severe thrust did bring a shriek from his mother’s lips. She looked away and saw McGrath in the doorway of their shared clapboard, a still silhouette like a graven idol backlit and flickering in the light of a single oil lantern.
Both narratives trade hits, one-two punches, each knocking down the other, chapter by chapter. Together they bring on hangovers, shiners, doses of regret that’ll test the grit of any crime fiction aficionado; together they inspire awe and reflection. More importantly they dignify a genre more often defined by shitty writing and fake-ass tough guys. Love You to a Pulp is the real deal: hard and fast, but also rich with literary merit.