Escapism Meets Dark Fantasy in This Startling Debut

Raymond E. Lee

Royden Poole is having a very bad day. Strong armed into investigating a break-in, the theft of everything but a half million dollars in unmarked bills, two missing-persons cases and a shooting with no body, all he wants to do is go back to pretending to be dead.

The Hole Behind Midnight

Publisher: Broken Eye
Price: $21.99
Author: Clinton J. Boomer
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2010-02

“The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.” So wrote Anaïs Nin in her diary in the years directly after the great war.

Decades before the internet and its myriad entertainment traps, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media platforms which have come to crowd out and clog our email in-boxes, creating their own two dimensional universes on the basis of binary code; so too go our thoughts. Paired down to 140 characters, a soundbite, or a catchphrase it becomes increasingly difficult for the old long form, the indepth and subjective rationalization of subject matter, to compete with the fizz and pop of trending tastes. Social media has become a world within our world, and Nin's prophetic sentiment remains valid, perhaps moreso than when she penned it.

An excellent question for today's youth might be: Do you construct a social media identity to escape the pace and drudgery of modern life, or is the metaphysical technological presence merely the next great evolution for comprehending reality? If it be the latter, then embrace it. It does no good to kick out at the future because the future kicks back so much harder. But if it be the former, take comfort in the fact escapism is nothing new, and you are not alone.

As far as literature is concerned, the creation of stories and scenarios to process external and often internal stimulus goes back to the very beginning. Plato placed his arguments within fictitious parameters, and before Guttenburg's technical revolution monk's transcribed religious texts one for one. The qualifications for religious literature's fictitious merit is debatable, but it's certain the parable was well understood and employed. With mass distribution provided by the industrial revolution, the emergence and acceptance of a general narrative arc, perspective, form and themes literature became the preferred method of escapist entertainment.

Popular fiction's library is vast, but at the very time Anais Nin was writing those words, the genres of science fiction and fantasy were blossoming. Perhaps the horrors of the world's two worst wars, combined with frightening leaps in technology, emphasized the need for escape within the greatest generation's collective consciousness.

At any rate, today's escapism is interactive, and increasingly more mainstream. Geek is the new indie. D&D fans rejoice in what they once hid, gone ye is the inherent shame in comic book culture, Star Wars is concreting its own religion, and anime is no longer solely the fetishist's pursuit. All these genres and more blend in convention centers across America at festivals celebrating a new weird, fantasy-based culture. A similar blending of fantasy worlds is taking place in literature's new frontiers. Case in point: The Hole Behind Midnight, by Clinton J. Boomer.

In this epic urban fantasy meets occult detective fiction debut, the protagonist Royden Poole is the classic underdog. A recovering alcoholic who just so happens to be an Indian midget, Royden Poole finds himself embroiled in a series of suicide missions no sane man would ever undertake. Luckily, both his ego and mouth more than make up for his diminutive stature, and he's a bit off his rocker. His cursory understanding of the dark arts enable him to navigate the treacherous underbelly of organized crime as well as the seedy underworld of supernatural magical kingdoms, both of which desperately want him dead.

The eccentricities spiral forever outward from this bizarre fixed point and the audience is introduced to the nightmarish dreamscape of the 25th hour. It's a sacred and magical phenomenon, a time when the clocks go a bit wacky and those with mystical properties are free to exercise their power. The nine-to-five work day world isn't privy to the goings-on, time stops for them, but during that interval for which the book gains its namesake an entire universe unfolds itself for the main players in The Hole Behind Midnight.

Navigating this perilous terrain and manipulated by superior forces both real and magical, Royden Poole takes on the classic detective's agenda of meting out justice regardless of the laws, jaws or allegiances he has to break. The mission becomes personal when his best (see only) friend is kidnapped and the ex he still hasn't moved on from is dragged into the mix.

If the plot seems a bit much, the cast of characters will surely undo your grip on reality. Boomer's predominant strength is undoubtedly his ability to create hundreds of unique and vibrant characters ,which he introduces to the audience through action packed combo punch chapters a la Dan Brown. And though the fantasy/detective genre might not be anything new, the motif's and themes employed around a classic narrative are so modern they could be called "hipster".

The cover of The Hole Behind Midnight warns you in advanced the book is for adults only. And indeed, from the f-bomb first word through the gender bending, hilarious X- rated themes, one discerns this isn't a safe escape into the typical fantasy novel. Rife with crime, drug abuse and violence, Boomer somehow manages to retain philosophical and artistic merit through the Gwar-like onslaught of filth and abuse.

The novel is both racially and socially progressive, with the anti-hero serving as Beck's '90s slacker savior through use of raw, irony-laced comedic dialogue. The plot unfolds at a frightening pace and might keep you reading deeply into the night for the pure joy of giving yourself the willies. Although there is violence at its core, the protagonist Royden Poole exhibits an absence of fear that should be admired. He is -- despite all his faults, his diminutive stature and refusal to work within the confines of society -- still the good guy. Furthermore, as a main character Royden Poole exhibits a type bravery that is increasingly harder to find in leading characters.

So while the modern, popular form of escapism might involve the internet via some form of technology, its comforting to think that if all the world's computers crashed tomorrow, we would still have avenues in the form of wonderful books like The Hole Behind Midnight. Clinton Boomer has created a sprawling universe with his first novel and it's the perfect place to hide for anyone in need of diversion.


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