Smile Politely

Review of The Hole Behind Midnight, by Clinton J. Boomer

Clinton BoomerI’m fairly well-read, meaning that I read probably more than I should, and don’t go outside nearly enough. I was an English major at the U of I, and while I was in school the first question everyone always asked me was whether or not I wanted to teach. No, I have no patience for that. The second question they would ask was if I wanted to write, and I would think about the idea of writing. I hate writing. I barely have patience for the articles I write for Smile Politely. The idea of spending years of my life on one work, just to have it ripped to shreds by critics and readers alike, leaves me in a cold sweat. Neither do I don’t have the drive or ambition for it. Or the dedication.

But Clinton J. Boomer, born in Wichita, Kansas, raised and living in Macomb, Illinois, has that drive. We discussed what it is that makes someone a writer — and I think we agreed that it isn’t necessarily talent. There are plenty of people in Boomer’s writing circle, a group known as the “Were Cabbages,” who write privately, comparing each others short stories and ideas, and they do amazing work, but have no interest in ever being published. “The narcissism of wanting to be published,” as he put it, is a distinct character trait (or flaw, depending on whom you talk to). “Maybe at the end of the day, I’m the crazy one.”

Clinton Boomer knows that his name is distinctive, but was extremely disappointed to realize that his name, while not a common one, was recently a common political term. The Baby Boomer generation who voted for Clinton became an oft-used term during the 90s: the “Clinton Boomer.” Finally, within the last few years, he has again gained ground on Google, overtaking the rest, which was a distinct moment of triumph for him. If you look him up, you can find information about various interviews and different contributions he has made to Pathfinder (an RPG) and other dealings with Paizo (a publishing company involved with various games, novels, and accessories). Boomer’s been writing professionally since 2008, and wrote The Hole Behind Midnight from October 10, 2009 to December 6, 2010. The first edition of this novel was printed in February, and he highly recommends Lulu Publishing for those interested in self-publishing.

Cover Art of The Hole Behind MidnightReferencing the cover art of The Hole Behind Midnight, I asked Boomer why he made the book so damn difficult to read in public. The cover is a great picture — the outside of an apartment in the dark of night, with what looks like a storm going on inside, while outside, cars whiz by. However, the back is a picture of a grotesque clown statue (relevant to plot, but hard to hide from a barista as she clears off your table and sniffs dismissively as you read, not that I’m bitter). The front cover prominently states, “For Adults Only,” as well.

Back Cover of The Hole Behind MidnightWe both shrugged about the clown as a matter of personal taste, but the “For Adults Only” was something that Boomer wrestled with before deciding to publish with the notice on the cover. I shared that it made it seem as if it was a book of erotica, which could really not be farther from the truth. An urban fantasy novel meets film noir script, this book has much more in common with seedy strip clubs where mobsters talk business while smoking cigars and then get shot up in grotesque fashion than any erotic novel by Anaïs Nin. But Boomer’s mother is an English teacher, and the idea of someone she knew buying the book and giving it to his or her kids without reading it … “Look, it’s Mrs. Boomer’s son, Clinton Boomer. Looks like a kid’s book! I bet little Jimmy would love it…,” and then getting mad at her for the clearly adult themes, language, and action in the book, was something Boomer did not want to worry about.

And this book is definitely for adults. No, it’s not sexual, but it’s graphic in the “R-rated movie” sense. The main character is an Indian midget named Royden Poole. This character never reminded me of Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones (probably because of the drastically different setting between epic fantasy and urban fantasy), but Boomer mentioned that some of the personality traits are definitely comparable, such as the surpassing of the same disability with a razor sharp wit. Poole has no girlfriend, of which he constantly laments, but he is forced to see his ex-girlfriend with Mr. Right all the time. He is perpetually broke, and is the ultimate underdog. He gets his ass kicked whether he’s in the Real World or in the 25th Hour, which is the time after midnight, before 12:01, but definitely longer than 60 seconds. Despite all of this, Poole is still worthwhile and holds his own against insurmountable odds, which makes him the unlikely lovable protagonist.

Boomer puts a sparse but compelling teaser on the back of the book:

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.

And it only gets worse from there.

I don’t want to say too much more about the book, honestly, because I’m leery of spoiling the plot. I will say, however, that the exposition takes awhile, but I can’t see any way it could have been shortened, as there’s a lot to explore between the Real World and its interaction with the 25th Hour. There are also rules. These rules aren’t laws that always apply to the 25th Hour, but rather rules that often apply within it. This adds a level of chaos to this adventure, which was already chaotic in the first place. But if you just trust the author, he does a great job of slowly but surely teaching you the world after throwing you headfirst into the detective story and a bunch of characters. You might get the feeling at the beginning that you’re missing a book — that’s on purpose. You haven’t missed anything, and it will all be explained, or at least, addressed. Boomer and the Were Cabbages built this world and universe to be complex and to hold up to different views and interpretations.

And it’s a fun ride. Weighing in at 549 pages, with a sneak peek of the sequel at the end, The Hole Behind Midnight not only introduces the reader to a world that’s very complex, it also gives you a group of memorable characters that don’t all blend together into the smoky black-and-white film noir setting, but emerge screaming as extremely colorful characters (language as well as personality). This isn’t a novel for kids, but there’s something extremely satisfying about it for the immature kid in you, watching Poole, the anti-hero, show absolutely no respect for anyone, cops and demi-gods alike, because he really just wants to go back home and cruise the Internet.

Boomer will be signing copies of his book at Jane Addams Bookshop, on July 9, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The event is on Facebook, and should be worth checking out, not only to support Jane Addams, but also to support a local(ish) writer with an excellent first novel.

If you like dark, urban fantasy, or if you like film noir, or if you like rooting for the underdog, or if you like the quirky and weird AND enjoy encouraging the quirky and weird, you should definitely check this out.

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