Chet Williamson,
The Crow: Clash By Night
(HarperPrism, 1998)

I thought The Crow was an excellent film. Bad press has kept me from dipping into the pool of follow-up efforts, however; the concept, while clever, is all too open to bad interpretations.

Chet Williamson's name on the cover convinced me to give Clash By Night, one in a series of stand-alone novels by various authors, a try. I was not disappointed.

Amy Carlisle is childless despite a desperate yen for motherhood. She has found purpose as a surrogate mother of sorts, operating a small daycare center in rural Minnesota. The young woman believes it will be a boon to business when a prominent presidential candidate schedules a publicity event at her center, but the Sons of a Free America see it another way.

SoFA is an extremist group from the religious right, a militant white supremacy sect with a hostile agenda. The presidential candidate is high on the group's hit list, and they choose the daycare to stage a high-profile assassination.

The candidate cancels at the last minute. But the bombs are already set, and Amy, a co-worker and 10 children are its innocent victims.

Six months later, Amy is resurrected by the Crow to find justice, which has eluded local and federal investigators. Fortunately, she is found by a former Detroit police officer, a veteran of that city's Hell Night tradition who can fill her in on Crow lore and her mission.

What follows is the sort of violent retribution one expects from the Crow tradition. There are seldom shades of grey in these tales, and good and evil are plain to see. The extremists are morally and in all other ways despicable; it's impossible to feel sympathy for any of them. And the outcome is rarely in doubt, since Crow operatives are damn near unstoppable.

Where Williamson delves into questions of moral ambiguity is in Amy's scattergun approach to vengeance. Initially careless of the bystanders caught in the crossfire, she quickly finds herself wrestling with her own guilt and the fear that she is becoming too much like the people she hunts.

Clash By Night has restored my hope in The Crow. If you, like me, have been avoiding the franchise, perhaps you should give this one a try.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 13 July 2002

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