The Windowlicker Maker Danny Hogan 98 pp. Pulp Press. £5.99 Pub. Date: 5/22/2010
Reviewed by Paul Stotts
Publisher Blurb:"They reckon they can give themselves a pat on the back and go for a drink after and brag about it the live long night - and then carry on with their lives. No, not this time."
Since the dawn of time man has been writing revenge stories. Whether scrawled on the wall of a cave, etched with quill and ink upon parchment or thumped out on a typewriter or laptop, we have, as a species, made many attempts to record our dissatisfaction with filthy greedheads and wrong'uns in the form of tales, odes and verse. None, however, none have come close to encapsulating the unyielding savagery of righteous wrath as Danny Hogan's The Windowlicker Maker.
Revenge. As motivation, not much beats it. Maybe love. Either way, both revolve around getting screwed. Love and revenge. Two sides of the same coin, the heart's Siamese twins. A love lost is the breeding ground for an ass kicked.
Revenge in crime fiction is like butter in French food. A necessity. It's an emotion the reader understands, relates to; it lurks inside all of us, a seed of potential discontent. It's the stage where wish fulfillment performs. A wanker cuts you off driving, suddenly vengeance and you are carpool buddies, plotting heinous acts together. An evil Sith lord blows up your home planet, you retaliate with photon bombs up their exhaust port.
Revenge. It's what makes us human. And incredibly fucked up.
Danny Hogan serves up a standard revenge fantasy with The Windowlicker Maker, a novella that lovingly embraces its pulp roots. The narrative is like a serrated blade, simple, linear, and brutal. There is no emotional complexity here, the main character's motivation is transparent; his need for revenge permeates every page. The Windowlicker Maker answers the question: what happens when a dangerous man snaps? Hogan's answer does not surprise, it only confirms what the reader expects.
Hogan's prose is like a verbal mugging, gritty and menacing, yet also sterile and business-like. Revenge is a profound emotion, but it doesn't read like that in The Windowlicker Maker. The main character Joe Tatum's anger, while understandable, is not palpable. There is no tension in the story, only an unending stream of violent acts, each transitioning emotionlessly into the next. The outcome feels preordained, like reliving a faded memory. The Windowlicker Maker wants to be like the classic pulp novels, a goal it mostly achieves. It is a solid example of the genre, but it doesn't elevate the genre. Think of it as listening to a jazz standard done by various artists, the basic song is the same, but the overall quality varies. With this in mind, The Windowlicker Maker is decidedly one-note.
Violence can be many things, but it should never be boring. The brutality in The Windowlicker Maker unfortunately teeters on the brink of boredom. The reader becomes desensitized to Tatum's acts of vengeance, which leads to disengagement with the story. I quickly asked myself: why should I care about Joe Tatum and his quest for revenge? I never found an answer, nor did I care to search for one.
"A Gun Called Comeuppance" is a bonus short included in The Windowlicker Maker. The story is tightly plotted, the language brusque and economical. The shorter length is a positive; classic pulp stories like this work better in small doses. The Windowlicker Maker would have been more palatable at this length, less drawn out, less opportunity to get bored with the action. While an additional story is always welcome, the inclusion of "A Gun Called Comeuppance" appears to be filler, padding to get the book above a hundred pages. Unnecessary. It suggests a lack of confidence in the material.
My recommendation: read Hogan's Killer Tease instead. It's a more assured and enjoyable take on pulp fiction.