Novels that fail to satisfy our expectations deserve a spot next to bad cigars and unrequited love as representative of life’s most painful letdowns.
Brief backstory – I’m one of these nuts that’s actually sort of enjoying quarantine. Working from home means more time with loved ones, staying up/sleeping in later, saying goodbye to a crummy commute and – OF COURSE – more time to kick back and read great books!
This being the case, I’m sure you can understand the excitement that gripped me back in June when I heard tell of a mysterious novel starring a legendary mountain man and his solo war of revenge against an entire Native American tribe. Sometimes a good ole, American Civil War-era horror show is exactly what I require.
Taken from the blurb on the back cover of my copy of Crow Killer: The Saga Of Liver-Eating Johnson:
“Standing 6’2” in his stocking feet and weighing nearly 250 pounds, he was a mountain man among mountain men, one of the toughest customers on the western frontier. As the story goes, one morning in 1847 Johnson returned to his Rocky Mountain trapper’s cabin to find the remains of his murdered Indian wife and her unborn child. He vowed vengeance against an entire Indian tribe. Crow Killer tells of that one-man, decades-long war to avenge his family.”
To make matters more awesome, Johnson ate the raw livers of every Crow Indian he killed. His strange choice of food was not for lack of snacks. The God of the Crow People barred the gates of heaven to all tribesmen that departed the Great Plains sans the accompaniment of their holy organ. So, when Johnson plucked the livers from the abdomens of the slain Indians he was – for all intents and purposes – sending them to hell.
After reading the plot of Crow Killer, I immediately ordered a copy. There is little chance that a book with such bitching source material could be anything less than a riveting read, I thought.
Unfortunately, compelling source material can’t cover up hurt of bad writing. Crow Killer is boring. It’s so boring I abandoned it at the halfway mark. Have you ever suffered through the unhappy experience of reading a novel that becomes less engaging the more your read it? It’s like the book loses a bit of it’s charm every time you turn a page. The more you learn about the characters the less interesting the become! That sounds like it should be impossible! I assure you it’s not.
Author, Raymond W. Thorp, appears to have been born and raised in California, but he could have fooled me. His writing is so awkward and his word placements are so bizarre it’s like English is his second or even third language. Thorp’s writing is ugly. It’s not grammatically incorrect or overwritten in a cringey sort of way – it’s just plain ugly on the eyes. I not sure how else to put it. It’s like Thorp understands the basic rules of plotting and narrative structure, but he’s also deaf to the text-music of graceful prose. It feels like Thorp never took the time to build rapport with his own book.
The interesting aspects of the character’s personalities are left unexplored. Potentially interesting moments in the biography of Johnson are glossed over while minutia is dragged out for pages and pages. Worst of all, for a book that takes place in Civil War era America, Crow Killer provides very little in the way of worthwhile content for history buffs to sink their teeth into.
The book is just bad, period – at least up until the point when I stopped reading it, of course! Is that lazy? Yes, probably. So be it! Life is way too short to justify apathetically clopping your way through hours of a bad novel for the pitiable prize of not feeling a bit lazy!
What about you guys? How often do you pitch a book before you finish it? I don’t do it too often. Maybe one out of every five books that I start are left unfinished.
P.S. Crow Killer has earned itself very favorable reviews on Amazon. So, maybe I’m the odd man out for not enjoying this book. I have a feeling that a lot of the people that read and enjoy this book are niche readers. Like, people that hold a particular fascination for mountain men, American pioneers and surviving the untamed wilderness were probably going to get a kick out of this book – form be damned.