Harm’s Way by Marc Richard is described as a horror comedy. This 214-page novel has forty-seven chapters. In January 2017 I posted a review of Degrees of Separation by Marc Richard. Degrees had 47 chapters. Is there magic in the number forty-seven? At the end of the January review, I mentioned I was next going to read Harm’s Way. This is next.
For the best experience reading this novel, you should recall your own past experiences as a prison guard. Most people above the age of fifty have been a prison guard at some time in their lives. For those without such experience, think of a single parent with twelve children. The point is you must keep the numbers correct and have a basic knowledge of individual personality anomalies. This novel has several and you don’t want to lose track of any of your charges. At least once Marc Richard lost track of Jonsey. If the author loses track of his creations, what chance does the reader have?
Second, you should read this novel in order. If you skip parts and read ahead, you will meet characters who are couching. You probably won’t know what this is, will think it is a typo by the author and will go on to leave a bad Amazon review. A negative review should not hinge on this word. With careful reading in the order presented, there should be no bad reviews. Reader attention is requested. Note that this novel should not be read in the same way as Degrees, which could be read in a Vonnegut style, from the middle going in a direction of reader choice.
Third, there are irrelevant inserts that the reader can either ignore or enjoy. Here is one I enjoyed: “Avid Cunningham was happily brushing his one tooth, thankful they didn’t take that, too. But you probably don’t know who Avid Cunningham is, so I won’t bore you with the details of his life.” (p. 104).
There is much, much clever wordplay. The reader will get some of it after reading two or three paragraphs past the clever passage. One example I like: “I mean, where I come from, there are some places where blacks and whites git along fine, and there are some places where they don’t. I’m from one of those places.” (p. 117).
In the spirit of a helpful reviewer/reader here is a brief character list which might help those with short attention spans, such as myself.
Jonesy has a drug problem of a few parts. His Dad had stolen his heroin so part one was a problem of lack of his favorite drug. Part two was that his substitution of acid led him on a search for substitute injectables that included everything except vitamin C.
Kiera was a Goth child. Not an emo. Don’t mix them up. Not that she will hurt you; she will just storm out of the room.
Floyd was three hundred pounds. It was good he could cook but the grits left something to be desired. Like food.
Brent was a study in allergies and fear of things that could cause allergies. Which was everything except computer games.
Darnell believed in establishing a black identity in mostly white Vermont. His role models come from popular media and he is not too shy to borrow.
Muffy and Buffy are identical twin females. One is smarter than the other. And one is uglier than the other. But identical except for that.
Doris is a cousin of the above twins. The guy almost never talks and seems to sing twenty-four seven. Or twenty four seven.
Adam feels that he is still a gay in the closet. He has only told one close friend. And one more. And one more …
Chet is a jock. He loves playing football on the field and playing snap-the-towel in the locker room off the field. And that thing with the coach was only once.
Ben is the organizer of the camping trip in the woods. It is not really camping because they are all staying in a cabin. The cabin is isolated, but the group will pass three other former residences to get to the cabin. Ben avoids telling everyone in the group the history of those families or groups. The reader will know the stories early.
I gave this novel five Amazon stars because it is a good fit with my sense of (dark) humor. This novel is not for everyone. Sexual stuff is minimal; what there is takes place in the imagination of teenagers. But there is violence, gore, and occasional torture. How can all that be overtaken by and completely immersed in humor? Marc Richard will show you. This is a refreshing break from “mainstream” reading.
There is a cabin in the woods. There is a group of inquiring, restless teenagers, each seeking to create a unique identity. The novel is clearly labeled horror comedy. Does everyone die? The only way you will know is to read the story. You won’t die laughing but there will be some painful guffaws.