Monday, September 15, 2008

Man Up: Paranoia and Bravura

Gary Amdahl's fiction can best be described as creepy and raw.

Reviewers have compared him to Albert Camus "with extreme muscle," a writer whose stories are about "pain and suppressed rage," and whose characters live "befuddled by rage."

Amdahl's I Am Death features two novellas. "I Am Death, or Bartleby the Mobster" records a journalist's last chance to redeem himself by helping a mob boss write an autobiography. "Peasants" examines an office worker's battle to remain relevant under a new manager.

In the first novella, the narrator (Jack) interviews a former associate of mob boss Frank Fini:
Dr. Plant: I got a series of late-night phone calls. Then one fine day I'm underneath my car, working on it, something I used to like to do. I hear footsteps. I say hello? and then BOOM something slams against the car. I see the jack tip and I think, well, that's how it happens for me. The jack collapses and the car comes down, the shocks and springs compress and the oil pan thumps me on the breastbone. Someone calls out to me. I think I recognize the voice as that of Frank Fini. This person asks in a nice, friendly tone, helpful but not overly concerned, "Are you still alive?" I can't think what else to say or do, so I admit it. "Yes," I say, "I am still alive." I can hear the guy squatting so he can talk more discreetly to me. Actually puts his hand on my kneecap. Pats it. "As soon as you people understand it's only because I say so, the better off we'll all be." Jack, I'm sorry I called you an idiot.
Jack: That's all right. I am an idiot.
Dr. Plant: No, it's just that you shouldn't be messing around with these guys.

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