I could almost stop with that quote and nothing more and you’d have a pretty good feel for author Josh Bazell’s latest book, Wild Thing: crazy shit. Of course, I mean that in the best way possible.
Though technically a sequel in that it features the same lead character as Bazell’s debut, Beat the Reaper, Wild Thing is so amazingly different in tone and style that it’s a sequel in name only. For starters, the lead character doesn’t even go by the same name he did in the previous book.
When we last saw Pietro Brnwa, a former mob hit man now in Federal witness protection, he was going by the name Peter Brown and working as a physician at a low-rent hospital in Manhattan. His cover was blown during the course of Beat the Reaper with spectacularly disastrous results, and Wild Thing finds Pietro/Peter now working on a cruise ship under the name Dr. Lionel Azimuth.
Not for long, however, as he’s approached by a reclusive billionaire (referred to throughout the book as “Rec Bill”) who’s obsessed with an urban legend which has a Loch Ness type creature living in White Lake deep in the woods of Minnesota. Rec Bill wants Pietro to accompany paleontologist Dr. Violet Hurst on an expedition to prove/disprove the creature’s existence, with Peitro serving as bodyguard and observer.
Pietro and Hurst aren’t the only ones on the expedition, however, as they are joined by a small group of people hand-picked – and steeply charged – by the expedition’s guide to join in the hunt. From true believers to international drug dealers to an “Oh no he didn’t!” cameo by a very well-known politician, the group Pietro and Hurst find themselves in the company of is as colorful as a box of crayons that’s been thrown in a blender. There’s no guarantee they’ll find the White Lake Monster, but as Pietro said, shit most definitely gets crazy.
Now, there are several things about Wild Thing which I feel obligated to mention. I see them as selling points, but I realize not everyone has the same outlook on their reading material I do. As with Beat the Reaper, there’s enough profanity in Wild Thing to make a room full of sailors blush. And while there’s not nearly as much violence, that which does take place is as realistically and brutally depicted as things were in Beat the Reaper. Additionally, I think Josh Bazell must have spent quite a bit of his childhood in “time-out,” because he has one of the most sarcastic, irreverent, in your face senses of humor I’ve ever encountered.
In Wild Thing that sense of humor comes out in the form of an absolutely brutal – and brilliant – skewering of the religious right/conservative politics. And though Bazell is obviously expressing his real stance/opinion on certain matters via the fictional events in the book, I think it’s done with enough farce and satire that it never gets too preachy or heavy-handed to take. And it’s all done with the same gonzo approach – again including a copious amount of informative footnotes and amusing asides – that made Beat the Reaper one of my Top 10 Reads of 2010.
Make no mistake about it, Wild Thing is a wildly entertaining wild ride that comes by its title more than honestly. So if you’re feeling brave, step up and do the Wild Thing.
Wild Thing is available from Reagan Arthur Books (ISBN: 978-0316032193).