Words fall down at twice the speed of a human body. The air they displace is a fetid mix of pig excrement and gases coming from the bloated carcass of masculinity. Sam Peckinpah’s ghost screams and shoots an invisible gun at nonexistent bottles. Celluloid, that archetypal thermoplastic, is made verb and blood. Then it burns. Death is here. Vengeance follows. Mayhem ensues. This is hyperreal ultraviolence. As chapter 30 states: “This is a book about the telling of ultraviolent deeds.” This is D. Harlan Wilson’s Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance, recently re-released by Raw Dog Screaming Press.
On the surface, Peckinpah could be called a classic revenge tragedy. The narrative follows Samson Thataway and his gang, the Fuming Garcias, and Felix Soandso. The first are a wild bunch (no pun intended) of LeBaron-driving sadistic killers whose modus operandi is complete chaos. Soandso is a regular guy whose wife is murdered by Thataway and the Fuming Garcias during one of their massacres. What follows is a stripped-to-the-bones version of a revenge story in which Soandso takes revenge on Thatway and Wilson shows why he’s one of the sharpest authors regardless of the genre he decides to tackle.
As with any book by Wilson, the main storyline is only a vehicle used to help him deliver an onslaught of original ideas, playful language, weirdness, knowledge, brutality, and bleeding, deconstructed concepts filtered through an academic lens that thinks pulp is the best language:
“In slow motion, it takes two minutes to traverse the barrel of the .44 Magnum Colt Anaconda Hyperphallic Plus. This high velocity, single-action handgun glints and twinkles in the vast purple brilliance of the cosmos. Its chrome-coated frame is complimented by a mother-of-pearl Bisley grip that features an etching of a zombified Charleton Heston’s bust. The sight of the gun seems not only to reify but to enhance and technologize masculinity.”
Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance is a novel about senseless aggression and payback as much as it is an exploration/homage/extension of Sam Peckinpah’s work, a ekphratic wonder of language and sadism where film and literature come together to create a unique reading experience. Wilson writes weird stuff, but it’s also some of the brightest, most genre-bending weirdness you’ll ever read. Peckinpah is full of what makes crime fiction great, but there are also good doses of everything from bizarro to whatever this is:
“A man replaces a line of cocaine with a thousand miles of barbed wire and snorts it up a nostril, shredding the nostril, shredding sinuses, shredding retinas and brain tissue and puzzle pieces of skull–an endless blot of noxious metal and eviscerated imagination shooting into space…”
Surreal, ultraviolent, gruesome, unique, and so full of references that getting all of them would be a challenge for anyone, Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance is a must-read for anyone who likes their fiction smart, fast, and dangerous.