Friday, January 8, 2016

Book review: Dennis E. Bolen's Kaspoit!

Looking evil in the eye Brilliantly disturbing novel echoes the Pickton murder case By Les Wiseman, Canwest News Service January 10, 2010 Kaspoit! By Dennis E. Bolen Anvil Press, $20 How close can one get to look evil in the eye? When you look long enough into the void, the void begins to look back through you, as Nietzsche wrote. When writers, through their craft, investigate evil, they go to places where the splatter gets on them, where doors are opened in the psyche that should have been left closed and can never be shut again. So, while I admire Vancouver's Dennis E. Bolen for his strength in unleashing this unflinching fictional evocation of evil surrounding an infamous B.C. pig farm, I feel sorry that this writer feels compelled to dive so fully into the sewage of human sin to create his art. Kaspoit! is either a sublime literary work of near genius or is one of the most wretched wallows in the dark mire of the soul ever published. It took a lot of guts to write this book. It takes a lot of guts to read it. Kaspoit! is the sound of a beer can opening, which punctuates many sections of this novel. The story is told strictly in dialogue and sound effects. The characters are white-trash criminals. The masterminds do well financially. The hands lead lives of cracker hedonism, beer, reefer, some E and skid-row hookers. In the compound of the swine ranch, they have a clubhouse, a sort of sub-gentlemen's hangout, where anything goes. And, if the prostitutes suffer some ill treatment, even death, well, there's a half-wit gofer named Friendly, who will dismember them and get rid of the parts. Elmore Leonard most famously noted that criminals are not usually the sharpest knives in the Ginsu set. The sheer pig (and I use the term advisedly) ignorance of this coterie of creeps, their monstrous amorality, their casual cruelty and lack of any moral compass is enough to give readers a sick feeling. Plus, that language -- savage, profane and merciless, all delivered in a fever-dream delirium of brief fragments of conversation. It is like James Ellroy's White Jazz made even speedier. The reader needs to learn a new language that hurtles through acts of depravity and dissolution. And when you put the book down, it is a relief. It is a Necronomicon of putrescence made all the more poignant in that it appears to be a speculation on what might have gone on at the famous pig farm and a thinly veiled revisioning of other recent western Canadian crimes. Bolen grew up on Vancouver Island, studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, and taught creative writing at the latter. He was a federal parole officer in the Vancouver area for 23 years. His previous novels -- Stupid Crimes, Krekshuns and Toy Gun --feature parole officer Barry Delta. He has also published a historical novel about the Holocaust, Stand in Hell, and a book of short fiction, Gas Tank& Other Stories. Reader beware, Kaspoit! is one rough book, not for the easily upset, a drop into a maelstrom of evil, a harrowing ride. Bolen makes the really rough writers, including Rex Miller, Derek Raymond and Mo Hayder, look tame. But, if you can handle it, you'll soon realize you're reading a work of stark brilliance. Several elements make this book work. Its experimentation with new words is successful. Bolen has such a knack for creating believable dialogue that puts the reader in the scene. To write so well that it has a physical impact on the reader is rare. The story itself is so compelling that the reader returns to the book, though repelled by it. Les Wiseman is former associate editor of Vancouver magazine and western editor of TV Guide. Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen--HO HO HO: TOTALLY