Good God, looks like I gotta catch up with this Nik Korpon character, dear reader, and catch up toot-fucking-sweet at that. I read the first paragraph of Old Ghosts, wherein a guy slicing off his finger on a home renovation work site sets off a chain of events both hilarious and horrifying (I no-shit laughed out loud like a fucking goof), and I knew that was it – I was finishing this novella in one fucking sitting. Having just stayed up past my beddy-bye time last night to do so, I can say it was well-worth the extra effort.
Old Ghosts is a classic noir story of a guy who leaves the life only to have some old ghosts (look what I did!) drift back into his life. (Or as Silvio liked to constantly quote from III on The Sopranos, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”) It’s the story of Cole, a guy doing home renovations in Baltimore, living with his new bride who is a yoga instructor. He thinks he’s left his old life of dealing drugs in Boston behind when he shows up to a new site to find that the homeowner is Chance, his old boss and childhood friend. Chance and his sexy sister Del slowly but surely drag the resistant Cole back in for one last score, one that you better believe doesn’t go as planned.
What sets this story apart is Korpon’s sly choices as a storyteller and his striking prose style. Though telling a story we’ve heard a thousand times in books and movies, Old Ghosts is made more profound through what Korpon leaves out rather than what he tells us. He gives us just enough information to get an idea of Cole’s backstory but hides just enough to tantalize us. Nothing is ever fully clear to us in this story but nor is anything actually confusing. It’s a very mature piece of fiction for such a young writer, which brings us around to what the Nerd wanted to say about dude’s prose. (Segues: I got em down cold.)
Korpon tells Old Ghosts from the perspective of Cole, a smart guy whose voice manages to be colorful and vivid without being too much so. There are some great passages in this that you wanna underline (don’t do it – you’ll fuck up your kindle something terrible!) yet I never felt like these didn’t fit the story or the character. That’s a balance few writers are able to strike, and one of those writers is a pretty okay one named Daniel Woodrell. (The Nerd’s getting almost bold with his praise now, boy!)
But don’t let all this high-minded bullshit get in the way of your picking up this beast, dear reader, because this is a crime story through and through. It has all the angst, tension, sex, and violence you want out of a good crime novel, just delivered in a way that’s refreshing and (here it comes, oh fuck) even kinda “literary.” Oh, and it’s also short as fuck, so there’s that too. So while you go get yourself some Old Ghosts, I’m gonna see what else this dude’s got under his belt. (Um, just noticed how homoerotic that sounds…)