Deputy Sheriff Bobby Drake is a man with a tremendous chip on his shoulder. Once a promising college football player, his life was turned upside down when his father, Sheriff at the time, was busted for running drugs across the US/Canada border. Drake returned home to his small hometown in Washington State and took a job as a deputy sheriff, determined to restore honor to his name and prove he’s a better man than his father.
Phil Hunt is also a man struggling hard to make amends in his life. A 10 year prison stint for manslaughter has rendered him all but unemployable, and along with his wife Hunt now ekes out a meager living by running a horse farm. The money not being quite enough, Hunt supplements the family income by picking up shipments of drugs dropped deep in the forest just inside the border and delivering them to a distributor. It’s a process that’s worked smoothly for Hunt for nearly two decades. He even had a tacit understanding with Drake’s father…but Drake isn’t his father.
When Drake notices a truck and horse trailer parked on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere his radar goes on high alert. After the truck doesn’t move overnight, Drake packs up his gear and heads into the forest to find out just what’s going on. What he finds is Hunt and a partner collecting a drug shipment and, a few shots later, Hunt’s low key courier job has gone seriously sideways.
Now Hunt’s on the run from Drake, who wants to arrest him, and his drug connection, who want the shipment Hunt no longer has. As if that wasn’t enough to make Hunt’s life difficult, the dealers send a hitman, a particularly nasty piece of work named Grady, into the fray to tie up all loose ends. What follows is an overlapping game of cat-and-mouse amongst the players that unfolds at a suffocatingly relentless pace.
And yet, for all the action present in The Terror of Living – and there’s quite a bit, some of it extremely graphic – it is the wonderfully developed characters that ultimately drive the story. Hunt and Drake are both haunted by events from the past, but striving to move forward with some semblance of a normal life. Both men also draw strength and purpose from their wives, each of whom acts as the moral compass that keeps their husband from going completely off the rails.
That The Terror of Living is author Urban Waite’s first novel is quite an accomplishment, especially considering it is deservedly drawing comparisons to No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy; not too bad for your first rodeo. With a tour de force debut like this, it’s scary to think what Waite will serve up next. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting.
The Terror of Living is available from Little, Brown and Company (ISBN: 978-0316097895).