(St Martin's Press, $23.95, 304 pages, hardcover, October 2001; ISBN: 0312280793)
Sugar Bear Smith accidentally murders a childmolester. The young and seductive witch who loves Sugar Bear does everything in her unpredictable powers to save him from his guilt and from the authorities. The owner of the local bar wavers in her affections between a persistent and charming police officer and a pool hustler who's planning a grand hustle. Meanwhile, at an alarming rate, people are driving their cars off the road and drowning in Hood Canal. And maybe there are forces straight out of Greek myth on the loose in the state of Washington.
These are only a few of the ingredients of the chunky and delicious soup that is Jack Cady's The Hauntings of Hood Canal.
Cady narrates his novel in a folksy, conversational manner. From the first paragraph, it feels like the narrator's enjoining you to sit down and have a beer while he spins his tale -- his tall tale. For as charming as the unidentified narrator may be, it's hard to shake the impression that, like the many hustlers in his story, he's trying to pull a fast one.
Cady plays with the tall-tale aspect of his novel by having his narrator frequently segue into the tall tales that grow out of the novel's events. By underlining that those other stories are just made up, the narrator is slyly trying to convince his audience that his version of the events can be trusted. Readers, thanks to Cady's subtle balancing act, are both seduced and wary.
Cady has great fun balancing all these layers of lies and fiction. Ultimately, The Hauntings of Hood Canal, as a novel, loses a bit of steam, but its mood is eerily enchanting and the author's voice is pure folk magic.
Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction
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© Claude Lalumière 12 January 2002, 12 April 2003