Urban Waite’s impressive debut opens as young Deputy Bobby Drake confronts two drug smugglers, ex-cons Phil Hunt and his companion, “the Kid,” in a dense forest located in the mountains of Washington State. Drake foils a delivery, capturing the Kid but allowing Hunt to escape. The chance encounter triggers events that force Drake and Hunt to confront their pasts, even as they deal with the fallout from the disrupted drug deal; the enraged owners of the heroin unleash their enforcer, the lethal Grady Fisher, to mete out punishment to those who have failed them.
There’s much to praise about The Terror of Living, including the relentless pacing and Waite’s stunning prose, but what really makes it compelling is the humanity of its characters. From Drake trying to cope with the sins of his father, to Hunt and his wife, Nora, desperately scrambling to maintain the happy life they’ve carved out for themselves against all odds, Waite’s richly imagined characters spring to life in the reader’s mind.
The book will no doubt be compared to Cormac McCarthy’s bleak No Country for Old Men, in many ways an apt comparison, but not in all, because it also evokes masterpieces like Deliverance, and even Lonesome Dove, in that one can actually feel Waite’s cast being transformed by events, some for the worse, but, more importantly, some for the better.