Book Review THE WOWZER by Frank Wheeler Jr

The Wowzer byFrank Wheeler Jr.

2012  Thomas & Mercer

The “otherness” that plagues Jerry, the narrator of The Wowzer takes the form of a beast that lies just beneath his surface. That connection to the beast came from the frightening stories Jerry heard as a kid, of a panther like creature that roamed the Arkansas hills. For Jerry, his capacity to inflict pain whether in his official capacity as a county sheriff’s deputy or as muscle for the sheriff’s drug running operation are just ways to keep the beast at bay while earning money. When Jerry begins to look to leave the protection business and move his life in more a domestic direction with his girlfriend Maggie, the sheriff starts to waiver about letting someone of Jerry’s talents leave. After a close call, Jerry gets the feeling that the sheriff might be out to double cross him and keep Jerry’s cut of the their drug money.

Jerry’s life gets messier when Maggie begins to question all of the death and violence that seem to follow him. Maggie leaves him, sending Jerry’s psyche into a tailspin just, as his and Sheriff Haskell’s business gets more complicated.

While the man-with-a-monster-inside-him has been a well used character device in the classic crime and horror fiction that have clearly inspired this novel. Frank Wheeler allows us to understand the psychological traumas that have made Jerry into a man who can pass as “normal” but has a ferocious side. Wheeler gives Jerry soft edges, using his smooth Southern voice to comic effect to charm the reader into underestimating just how dangerous and cunning Jerry is by nature. In The Wowzer, Frank Wheeler has created a memorable character that’s hard to make excuses for but compelling nonetheless.

Tim Hennessy