Nick Bullman has spent his youth cultivating celebrity. As a wrestling star known as “Widowmaker,” Nick has his share of wealth, fame, and plenty of breasts pumped full of plastic. But it’s a fateful meeting with two delusional, knife-wielding fans that alter the course of Nick’s life. Newman digs deep, finds the words and imagery that make the story burn, and the result is nothing less than pure nightmare fuel. The horror here lies in the very real possibilities of an event like this, and the curtain is never dropped. The reader is up front and center as witness while the men carve their madness into Nick’s face, leaving him a horribly disfigured monstrosity.
After the incident, Nick finds himself back in his hometown, Midnight, North Carolina, at the request of his estranged daughter, Melissa. While Nick was no doubt a terrible father in the past, he hopes that he can make steps toward something better, something good. In doing so, he agrees to help Melissa find Sophie, her daughter and Nick’s granddaughter that he has never met.
What follows is a galloping, blood-smeared good time. Newman has a unique talent for setting. Time and time again I felt as if I had stumbled into my own childhood in a small, white trash town. If Newman himself didn’t grow up in such a town, I’d be mightily surprised. If you’re like me, you’ll lose yourself so completely that you’ll inevitably feel as if you’ve stumbled down a rabbit hole somewhere and woken up right back where you were born.
Newman takes characters that are typically marginalized and lets us root for them. Leon, a tweaker and Widowmaker’s biggest fan, becomes a character that both surprises and breaks your heart. I admire a writer who is able to see the nuances of both good and evil in every character. Even Koko Puff, who is meant to be despicable, has clear motivations, and I appreciate that Newman doesn’t rely on used up tropes and stereotypes. But there is the despicable here, too, and in “Daddy,” Newman has crafted a character that genuinely sets the skin to crawling.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book. I’ve never been a fan of wrestling, but it only took two pages to hook me. I’ve seen others call this book “white trash noir.” I’d have to wholeheartedly concur. But for Newman, “white trash” is anything but an insult. In fact, I’d call it high praise. I sincerely loved this book, and look forward to reading more from this highly talented author.