Thursday, December 23, 2010

The White Faced Bear

by R. Scott McCoy
Publisher Belfire Press, 2010

As often as I deal with his work as a publisher, via Stygian Press and Necrotic Tissue magazine, it is sometimes easy to forget that R. Scott McCoy is a writer in his own right. So here I am, looking down the barrel of his second novel and asking the only question that matters: does this bear bite?

Jeff Bennett and Merrick Polasky don't have much in common, living states and total existences away from each other, but there is that one thing. Nope, I'm not talking about the omnipresent grief and guilt due to the loss of their fathers. There is that, but the ancient, ageless evil magician trapped in the form of a Kodiak bear by one of Merrick's Sun'Aq ancestors and severely po'd by Jeff's father is a tad more pressing. Now they have no choice but to destroy the White Faced bear in a journey that will force them to face the deep dark things inside themselves neither is willing to admit. It's either that, or get eaten by a whole mess of bears.

As McCoy's second novel, The White Faced Bear shows him becoming more focused and confident in the craft. Where Feast was a bit loose and scattershot, in a fever-dream nightmare logic sort of way, the Bear is very concrete and grounded. This, along with the brevity, makes a tight story that speeds through the pages. I also appreciated the down to earth approach to dealing with shamanism and American Indian traditions in modern society.

However, what struck me the most here is how well Scott captures the easy going, somewhat dickish camaraderie that develops between men. Most of the dialog is spent on the interactions of Jeff and Merrick and it feels natural, comfortable and it flows well, but most importantly, it sounds like guys talking. Yes, I know that's vague, but we're dealing with feeling here, not quantifiable statistics.

Unfortunately, there are times that he draws the narrative momentum to a screeching halt to either proselytize or rant at the reader through the mouth of his characters. The worst offense comes up about half way through, via an argument over bitching rights that served no purpose either in moving the story forward or revealing character. It's not intolerable and the occurrences are spare and sparse enough to keep it from being a story killer, but it annoyed me a little.

Ending verdict: This Bear is a lean, muscular little beasty that moved at a brisk pace, took a fair piece out of my pale-faced booty and gave me a new nickname for Scott besides "he who loves unicorns".

Buy it here.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

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