Kevin Burton McGuire,
Fire Gazer: Arson at the Wolfe House
(Reminiscing, 2009)

Fire Gazer: Arson at the Wolfe House is purportedly composed of excerpts from a daily journal/manuscript found on a decommissioned laptop. While the characters and their interactions are fiction, the fire at Thomas Wolfe's house did occur on July 24, 1998.

The story begins with Ben Jennings, a frustrated reporter, who is given a fluff assignment to cover a series of ghost sightings for the features section of the newspaper. Ben encounters DC, an anti-social but highly intellectual homeless man (and potential cult leader/suspected arsonist) with his man-at-arms Rank Dave and hangers-on referred to as the Mouse Sisters. DC's rantings about impending fiery changes stirs Ben's suspicions, and we get a glimpse into DC's world (which includes the Ghost of Zelda Fitzgerald).

While the characters are intentionally outlandish/on the fringe, McGuire has a great grasp on character interaction, with believable back-and-forth dialogue. The conversations between Ben and DC seem spontaneous, not scripted (as conversations in novels so often do). Ben's line of questioning says just as much about his character as the tangential responses from DC say about him.

If the title doesn't establish it enough, the location is central to the story. McGuire really gets the feel of Asheville, so much that it's practically another character in the book. He takes you around the city, not just referencing the landmarks, but establishing the environment of each area and its people.

The biggest problem with this story is the Blair Witch format. The format itself isn't inherently flawed, but it lends itself to abrupt endings and little resolution for the characters. In less than 100 pages, McGuire manages to establish delightfully complex and interesting characters in a short, so it's jarring that the story jarringly ends with the fire at the Wolfe House. (It's not really a spoiler if it's the title of the book, is it?) Perhaps that is just the effect the author is intending. It's a testament to the character development that the reader is left wanting to know the rest of the story.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

22 May 2010

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new