Sunday, October 1, 2023

Gone To the Wolves; John Wray; Farrar Straus and Giroux Press, 2023


It was not by word of mouth that Disaster Amnesiac came across John Wray's excellent Gone To the Wolves, sadly. I'd had no idea that this book even existed. When it came to view at the Oro Valley Library, I just knew it. Knew its subject matter, in an intuitive way, knew that I'd dig it, just straight up knowledge. Those fonts on the cover said everything needed to be convinced about checking it out. Glad to have done so, too. Wray's story centers around a triangle of three young people in the time frame of the later 1980's into 1996. Kip, Kira, and Leslie are all sprouted from the murkier side of American society, and find their initial bonds forged by mutual love of Heavy Metal. Were we calling it simply "Metal" by then? Disaster Amnesiac cannot recall, even though I was aware of that scene in that time. I can safely say that I even knew a Kip, and a Kira and a Leslie. It seems safe to remark that everyone and anyone that's ever been involved in outsider scenes such as that of Metal will attest to knowing them, too. Wray's treatment of their shifting relationships and the emotional, as well as physical, impacts of them are treated with a tenderness that moved this reader many times. As stated, Disaster Amnesiac knows these people. They may have different names and faces, but in essence, they are the same. Gone To the Wolves is brilliant in that sense. The novel is also brilliant in the ways that it utilizes three distinct Heavy Metal scenes as framing devices for developing the relationships of Kip, Kira and Leslie. Florida Thrash, Los Angeles Glitter/Hair, and Norwegian Black Metal are all explored deftly by Wray. John clearly knows his stuff, and if he's not a genuine fan of the genre and its myriad offshoots, well he fooled me. Glen Benton, Lemmy at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, Oystein Aarseth, and Varg Vikernes all appear in the story, with Vikerness getting a pretty large support role during Act Three. Disaster Amnesiac couldn't help but wonder if Varg has read the Gone To the Wolves, and, if so, what his thoughts have been. Can't  say that I've seen him expound upon the subject at his Telegram channel, but then again I do not see his content that regularly.

Gone To the Wolves is a mightily compelling read. Just like good song craft, Wray's writing transcends genre with its solid story, eloquent turns of phrase, and obviously deep knowledge of the human condition. Disaster Amnesiac tried to play a role in starting a word of mouth campaign about the book at a Metal show on Friday night in Tucson. Would that action start a fire here in the Sonoran Desert? This novel certainly did so within my Heavy Metal brain waves!

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