EM Novels, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-9744195-2-4
Paranormal Romance, 2008
After three years of slumming in Ludlow Prison, killer-for-hire Galen Driscol is finally free. He catches up with his mother – who is still working the streets – before catching up with his lover, Wira Boruta. Wira is a crossdresser, by the way. This isn’t merely a fetish on Wira’s part – he feels that he is a woman trapped inside his male body. In other words, Wira is a transgender person. From all appearances, Galen is a reformed man who intends to live a clean and respectable life from now on. However, he has learned of the location of an enemy from his past during his stay in prison and he decides that a swan song of sorts is in order before the Mongoose retires for good.
If Gadarene sounds like a more down-to-earth kind of drama, it isn’t, not exactly. As the story progresses, it soon becomes clear that there are supernatural forces at play as well, as Wira and Galen begin seeing ghosts of dead children haunting them for a mysterious reason.
Set in the Manhattan slums of Five Point in the late 19th century or so, Gadarene is an impressively vivid story. The authors have done an excellent job here evoking the conditions of the slums. Whether this is an accurate depiction or a romanticized Oliver Twist version of life in the slums – I’m leaning towards the latter – the end result is the same. I feel as if I’m transported into the story. I also like how Wira is portrayed as a character, with little being made of his sexual preferences in the story, rather than a one-dimensional poster boy for affirmative action. The love story between Wira and Galen actually takes a backseat to the mystery and paranormal elements in this story but nonetheless they have a vivid and passionate thing going on. To Galen, Wira is the only beautiful thing he knows in the slums, which makes for some appealing melodramatic pathos on Galen’s part.
I wish this story is longer, though. As it is, it is a readable and satisfying story, but I still feel that the plot revolving around the villain could have been developed better. The ghostly elements could have been slowly introduced via a more gradual build-up instead of the rather abrupt switch from what seems like a historical drama at first into an “Oh no, Wira starts seeing ghosts!” story. Perhaps a prologue that hints that the darker aspects of the plot would have helped?
Some of the quirks in the writing also annoy me, I’m afraid. I wish the authors haven’t gone as far as to change “w” into “v” in Wira’s dialogues to drive home Wira’s Polish accent. It’s pretty annoying for me to see “vhat” and “ve”, for example, instead of “what” and “we”. As much as I appreciate the authors’ attempt at making the street cants as authentic as possible, this particular quirk makes me cringe every time Wira begins to speak. Also, I wish that the authors haven’t referred to the bad guy as Him (complete with italics and capital H). Perhaps this is an attempt on their part to give the reader some foreshadowing but I can never get used to this quirk.
Having said everything, I find Gadarene an interesting story with memorable pathos-ridden main characters. Despite my issue with its inadequate build-up, I’m pleased that this story has an interesting story as well as memorable lead characters instead of having merely some “oh look, there’s a transgender character” novelty factor to offer.