Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Readers of up-and-coming author Martin Holmen will be interested in the writing style that has a dynamic immediacy of impact in the book Slugger. How to paint a character so that he or she is immediately recognised, how to present insights into the lives of the people around the central character, and how to display a quirky sense of humour that differs with each character – all that is part of the portfolio that Martin Holmen shares with his readers. It takes more than style to write a best-selling novel. This is a best seller for a very particular group of readers.
The book’s subject matter is unordinary. Holmen’s protagonist is as uncouth and lacking in human empathy as the worst. His story is not easy to support, unless you have an affinity with men who maim and kill, and enjoy a life of cigar dumpers, booze, and a homosexual lifestyle. As the book concludes, the main character has been dealt a hand that was always his to have. By then he has made his particular presence dominate the book.
It is an unusual way for a young author to make his mark in literature. Comments already made about the author’s prowess have a ring of truth but are noteworthy also in that nobody appears to have ever published a review that says that noir literature like this is confronting but not necessarily lasting. I’ve not seen one. Surely a writer toils to produce a text that will be remembered for its quality, not as a seamy expose of a drunken sot, more derelict of worth than admired.
To this point I have written about the character who leads the story. I’ve intimated that the character is vivid and whose presence maintains his fellow characters in his shadow. I’ve suggested that the book is a series of violent episodes, rather than a well-connected series of actions that one would expect to find some degree of identification with.
While I have difficulty with this genre, I thoroughly commend the author for his story-writing techniques which are of the highest order. Irony and satire, incident-specific humour, sadness and pity, handled so as not to diminish the human condition – these are great strengths. Slugger’s funding of the young woman, caught in child and dreading a forced abortion, to allow her to have her baby in more favourable circumstances, his support for an old mate even to the extent of carrying him on his back – these examples give a more rounded view of the main character.
To explain why I felt the end of the story was satisfying would be to spoil the tale. I would very much like to recommend this book to readers, but I cannot. I see a great writing career ahead for this author, but for me the whole yarn is too black, the dominant character, who really does control the book, too much of a ‘grub’ to receive my support.
By Martin Holmen
Echo Publishing/A & U