A warning at the front of Dave Migman’s novella The Wolf Stepped Out (published by Dog Horn Publishing) reads as follows:
“This book is a work of fiction. Anything you can’t handle is therefore your own problem. We do not condone what we publish and there simply is no excuse for Dave Migman in any shape or form. That said, we all like to be entertained–so if you can deal with it, read on. If you can’t, then it’s tough.“
This little paragraph is nothing if not intriguing. I’m not easily offended, and so I took it as a challenge and set out to see whether the book really deserved such a warning. To my absolute delight, I think it does.
The Wolf Stepped Out tells the story of Jason Irvine, a reclusive and bitter security guard who finds his life languishing in a place equal parts rut and pit. He shares a filthy flat with two bizarre housemates, hates his job, himself and the morass of consumerism that he sees in the world around him, and pines fretfully for better times long since passed. We follow him through the turmoil of his daily life, watching as tension and disgust and hate slowly begin to eat away at him, and something dark and supernatural rises from the cracks in his sanity.
As you might expect the portrait of a life that Migman paints is relentlessly dark and unsettling. And yet it is leavened also by a kind of brutal poetry. The prose may be grim, but it is beautifully, glisteningly grim. Migman alternates between complex, keen and lucid descriptions and complete up-front baseness. Take, for example, this short passage:
“He pointed the camera. Beautiful textures were bound by light, captured fragments of Time’s progress . . . alien and strange. Puckered flesh of factory wall, festering rash of blighted pipes.“
And compare it with this, taken from the very beginning of the novella:
“He entertained the idea of masturbating but there were no enticing images. He could never bring himself to buy porn and the one image that came to mind brought him such shame that he couldn’t get hard.“
As well there is a pleasingly earthy focus on sound. Dialogue is often written out exactly as it would be spoken, from the Scottish dialect of Jason’s roommate Foost to the silky purr of his boss. Ordinarily I would find this annoying, but here it works well, saturating the prose in sound and fluidity.
Noisy, furious and unrelenting, the novel rattles on. At times it is fatiguing and at times it picks you up and flies with you. As the novel progresses the pitch and intensity of it only increases, layering on the pressure as Jason is nudged closer and closer to breaking point. The harshness of it, the seething hate of the protagonist seeping through the pages, never lets up. When that breaking point finally comes it’s shattering, and more than justifies the word of caution in the opening.
The Wolf Stepped Out is a unique book, satisfyingly dark, fascinating and gory as train crash. It is available from www.doghornpublishing.com.