on April 21, 2014
I saw Antoine Wilson speak on a panel at the LA Festival of Books, and after hearing him read an excerpt from one of his novels, I had a feeling I would love his writing. And I do! This was one of my favorite novels in quite a while. Wilson’s characters are so bizarre, well-developed and intriguing. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I finished the book in a couple days. I especially loved Lily. How did he make Lily, the fiction inside the fiction, so real? And Owen—what a brilliant mess he is! I didn’t feel like I was witnessing craziness from the outside, I felt like I was right there inside his mind with him where it all made sense. Wilson's story is just weird and dark and wonderful and refreshingly original.
on June 2, 2007
First of all, The Interloper is just an amazingly fun and gripping read. It's fast-paced, or perhaps it's that the twists and turns keep arriving before you can get comfortable. The book explores the unsatisfying nature of justice, the disruption of tragedy and the unpredictability of poking a tiger in a cage - dark matter in a surprisingly funny way. It's a real testament to Wilson's skill that his characters invent characters within the novel that have carefully intended degrees of believability. Owen Patterson has to be a full, rich and complete fictional person to create a Lily Hazelton who is just a hair short for the story to work. And work it does!
on August 23, 2007
This is probably the best first novel to hit the book stores since Brett Easton Ellis's "Less Than Zero" in 1985. It's a bona fide page turner.
The cover blurb sets the reader up to expect a revenge novel: The protagonist is out to avenge his brother-in-law's senseless murder, a loss that is destroying two families. Antoine Wilson's story takes the form of a modern epistolary novel--one that depends on letters to set out the plot. But book has much more in store. There are some nice plot twists that make the book a compelling "read". While the writing style isn't immortal literature, the simple, direct narrative keeps bumping along with a few thigh-slapping jokes thrown in.
There are a few lapses of editing, and some of the voices don't seem quite right (hard boiled criminals aren't usually literary types). However, these are minor glitches in a great first novel.
This is an excellent "beach book" or a way to happily "kill" a trans-continental flight.
on May 21, 2007
In THE INTERLOPER the first 50 pages are enough to pull you in, but it's the last 50 pages that won't let you go. Much like in John O'Hara's story of self destruction from the early 20th century (Appointment in Samarra), you know the main character is in a downward spiral and yet you just can't help but follow him down while your better self is urging him to correct his mistakes and move on, and the whole while you know it won't help. This train is destined to come off of the tracks and you can't help but watch. Childhood voids and first loves combine with recent tragedies and a skewed sense of justice to bring a disaster that you fully expect and have no way to anticipate. The resulting wreck is an artful masterpiece that is complete in it's inability to satisfy anything but the reader's curiosity about how it all ends.
What kind of man describes himself as "a solid B?" That's what the main character, Owen Patterson, does in the first paragraph of Antoine Wilson's debut novel, "The Interloper." You've got to ask yourself what's wrong with someone who'd say something like that. He arouses your curiosity. There seems to be something not quite right about this fellow, and it turns out you're right.
Antoine Wilson has written a very intriguing and entertaining novel. It's a taut, fast-paced psychological thriller about grief, revenge, and obsession gone awry. If you're looking for something to keep your attention riveted for a day on the beach, or a long plane flight, this might be the perfect book. It's a short, intense, psychological rollercoaster ride--the effect is pure unadulterated enjoyment!
The writing is unusually good for a debut novel--it is sparse and fresh with nothing adorned or contrived. Laugh-out-loud dark humor pops up unexpectedly throughout offering welcomed relieve to balance the growing tension. The author's writing style seems to straddle nicely the space between popular and literary fiction. Clearly, the author aim is to entertain, but he does so with extraordinarily good style. If you've got twelve minutes to view and listen to an eerily inviting and well-done online video clip where the sound track is taken word-for-word from chapter three of this novel, Google "interloper antoine wilson chapter three" and you'll find the Google Video link right near the top. It's a well-done video! Although I'd finished the book by the time I heard about this little film, I found listening to it greatly enhanced my appreciation for the author's prose. Evidently, the author's prose sounds better than it reads. In the end, I'm afraid this little film will do a far better job of convincing you whether or not to buy the book than I can in this review. Along the way, you'll be able to hear more detail about the plot, determine if you like the author's prose style, and get a good feeling about the eerie and bone-chilling tone of the novel as a whole.
From the beginning, the reader gets the overwhelming impression that things are not going to turn out well for the main character. He's chosen a strange, convoluted, and dangerous path to balance the scales of justice and obtain his own private revenge. As we watch him careen along this path, his obsession grows, and his sanity ebbs.
Don't expect this novel to deliver any deep insights into the nature of human behavior. This work is about entertainment, not psychological revelation. Modern evolutionary psychologists have fully discredited the concept of revenge as a mental disease state, but this is still widely believed by the general public and naturally makes a great story...so, if you tend toward the scientific or academic, I recommend that you just sit back, disengage your analytical brain, and enjoy the unfolding spectacle. If you do, you'll find it almost impossible to resist the tug of this compelling drama.
I suspect that men may enjoy this novel slightly more than women. However, as a female reviewer, I had a great time reading this book. In particular, I felt myself sympathizing with Owen's alter ego Lily Hazelton. She was my favorite character in the book. Typically, my tastes tend toward literary fiction, but I had no problem getting into this book and having a good time with it.
Personally, I will be very interested to see what type of book Antoine Wilson writes next. Is he going keep to the middle, or to swing closer toward the popular or literary? I have my guess, but I'll keep it to myself. He is a talented new writer--someone to keep my eyes on in the future.
on May 31, 2007
For a first novel, this is a real feat of tonal assurance. It's all of a piece, spooling out of the mind of a steadily more obsessed narrator. Written in a sparse, coiled, ostinato prose, the effect is both creepy and blackly comic. "Dear Mr. Raven... My name is Lily Hazelton and I am interested in writing back-and-forth with an incarcerated man."
It starts as a prison memoir a la Lolita, but turns into an epistolary cross-dressing tale of revenge. (A breakthrough subgenre, I think.) By pretending to be a woman, the hero plans to break the heart of the inmate who murdered his brother-in-law. But there is something just slightly 'off' about this narrator, even during his carefree interludes with his wife, and it prepares you for everything to go horribly wrong.
I thought it was a real page turner.
From The Interloper by Antoine Wilson:
"The word ghost should be like the word pants - it should never be singular. No one leaves behind one ghost. Everyone who dies leaves behind at least as many ghosts as people they knew."
The Interloper was an impromptu read for me. I didn't intend to read it right now, with all the piles of review books accumulating around me like ants at a summer picnic. If my hand hadn't happened to touch this particular book, while I was pawing through a bag of books, who knows when I'd have gotten to it. I didn't get a review copy of it, so there was no sense of true urgency, but I had an idea it had been lauded as a really good read. And far be it from me not to be influenced by that.
So I picked it up, and read the first couple of pages. Then I read a few more pages, then I said "Hell with it. I'm taking this one to my reading lair..." And the rest is history. It was as close to unputdownable as it gets.
The main character, Owen Patterson, is a man whose worsening mental state pulled me in and wouldn't let go. As his obsession grew so did mine, and before I knew it there was no escaping until I knew how all this resolved itself.
What would the average man do if his wife felt tortured by the knowledge her brother's murderer wasn't paying all that stiff a price for his crime, if the pain and sadness of it had turned her into a person he no longer recognized, and he felt himself powerless to help?
The average man may not be willing to go to the lengths Owen Patterson did, starting up a correspondence with the killer, posing as a beautiful young woman, trying to win his heart and then break it, just as his wife's heart had been broken. The further Owen gets into his plan, the more his sanity takes a dive, plunging him into obsession. The need for revenge becomes so overwhelming he puts everything on the line, risking his job and his relationship with his wife, hoping against hope that once all is said and done he'll be able to say he'd maybe not righted the wrong, but that he'd at least balanced it out a bit. And his wife, he reasoned, would feel better knowing he'd loved her enough to do that for her, and maybe, just maybe, she'd snap back to herself again, and everything between them would be as great as it had been before her brother was senselessly and brutally murdered. That's a lot of maybes, but when maybe is all you have you may just take a chance and grasp at anything.
"Every moment contains within it the seeds of its own destruction."
The Interloper's a fascinating read, especially if you love books that delve into the darker side of the psyche, like I do. The prose is beautiful, and the plot grabs you by the throat. A fine, fine book.
on June 25, 2007
This is a near-perfect first novel. It's structured like a classic noir, as a flashback onto the events that have landed the narrator in the circumstances he finds himself at the time he begins to write (I won't spoil it and tell you what those circumstances are). That character is very interesting and intriguing -- highly intelligent but clearly flawed. We see his faults and bizarre behavior, but still want things to work out for him. Really, this is a darkly fun, funny book, and a quick read.
on January 22, 2008
From a person who never has time to read (work, kids, reality tv, etc.), I finished this book in a week, simply because I couldn't put it down. The author really gets you hooked with the story and his smooth prose takes over. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a well written, thought provoking, book that keeps you on the edge of your couch the entire time!!
on July 26, 2007
The basic premise of Antoine Wilson's "The Interloper" is fascinating: how far would you go, what would you do in order to enact, set in motion a plot to avenge a wrong done to your family? What does an "Eye for an Eye" really mean in 2007?
Owen marries Patty and on their honeymoon they learn that Patty's brother CJ is murdered; sending Patty and her family into a tailspin: totally natural. Early on this novel, CJ's father, Calvin Sr, speaking about the incarcerated murderer says: "I'd kill him with my bare hands if I got the chance. But I won't get the chance. I don't want the chance usually."
Owen, as the "outsider" : both a new part of the Stocking family and yet apart from it...attached to it only by his marriage to Patty serves as the interloper of the title: someone who didn't know the murdered brother CJ yet must suffer and empathize with his in laws and with his new wife specifically: "We are all hobbled together. Odds and ends. Bric-a-brac. CJ is: a buried body, Stocking talk, newspapers, videos and pictures, Ravens (the murderer) account, a diary. I can't put him back together. I can't put myself back together. The pieces are me but not mine."
And so Owen hatches a plan to avenge CJ's murder. A plan to make the murderer, Raven pay even more than the currency of time and freedom that has been placed on him by the court: "The plan unfolded with crystal clarity in my mind...Raven would suffer...I resolved right then not to tell Patty about my plan until I reaped its fruits. All my duplicity would turn out for the best, like planning a surprise party. This was the only way I could un-poison the soil, restore a sense of justice and balance out our world, bring the old Patty back."
Robert Burns said it best: "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
Antoine Wilson is a talented writer and this, being his first novel is a good read but not a great read or a great novel. The third act falls apart in that Wilson seems to lose interest in his story as the denouement is jarring and out of character with the rest of the book.
With that said there are many passages here that take your breath away with the knowing clarity of its observations: "The word Ghost should be like the word Pants--it should never be singular. No one leaves behind one ghost. Everyone who dies leaves behind at least as many ghosts as people they knew."