Pike – Benjamin Whitmer

PikeReading Whitmer’s work is like being lost in a dark woods, gutshot by an unknown assailant while you stumble blindly through the trees, bleeding profusely, the pain excruciating.

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

For the first time in my life, I went back and immediately re-read this book from start to finish after completing it once.  It’s that good.

Whitmer’s writing is raw, edgy…like an episode of The Wire on crack.   And meth.  And heroin.  In fact, throw in all the opiates and amphetamines, and you might come close to his writing style.  It’s nightmarish and cohesive, simultaneously.  We flinch and grimace and want to run away, but can’t, because the writing has us by the short-and-curlies and doesn’t let go.

Here’s the synopsis:

Douglas Pike is no longer the murderous hustler he was in his youth, but reforming hasn’t made him much kinder. He’s just living out his life in his Appalachian hometown, working odd jobs with his partner, Rory, hemming in his demons the best he can. And his best seems just good enough, until his estranged daughter overdoses, and he takes in his 12-year-old granddaughter, Wendy. Just as the two are beginning to forge a relationship, Derrick Kreiger, a dirty Cincinnati cop, starts to take a very unhealthy interest in the girl. Pike and Rory head to Cincinnati to learn what they can about Derrick and the death of Pike’s daughter, and the three men circle, evenly matched predators in a human wilderness of junkie squats, roadhouse bars, and homeless Vietnam vet encampments.

If you’re looking for the true definition of noir fiction, you only have to go so far as Benjamin Whitmer.

What I appreciate most is that Whitmer doesn’t hold back.  And that makes for amazing stories, told from the very depths of our dark night of the soul.  Pike is a reality check for what the media will never talk about, and what most of us will (hopefully) never experience.

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