"The Worthy : A Ghost's Story"
(Reviewed by Pat Neuman JAN 13, 2007)
"If you ignore what I have to say, it really won't surprise me. I've come to find that most people ignore the dead. If you do choose to hear me, listen closely, because what I have to tell you is a story of unholy proportions. Hopefully, if I can make you hear what I am supposed to tell you, I can finally break the ties that bind me to the secret letter society of Gamma Chi."
Conrad Avery Sutton, III is dead. He was deliberately thrown down the stairs of his college fraternity house by Gamma Chi’s chapter president, Ryan Hutchinson. Most people cannot see or hear Conrad, but he can visit and watch all of his former friends, lovers and fraternity brothers at will and recount what he sees. And he is angry and sickened by it.
Ryan demands a malevolent, iron-fisted control of everyone around him. He leads the active members of the fraternity into ever more vicious hazing antics on this year’s class of new initiates. He seems to have fooled the whole world into thinking that he is some kind of nice, caring guy, although it is only a facade. Apparently only Conrad sees the truth: Ryan abuses cocaine, lies, cheats, beats his lovely girlfriend, rapes, and abuses or terrorizes everyone who crosses him.
Conrad is bent on revenge and targets a new pledge as a means to this end because he accidentally learned that he is capable of merging into and possessing Tucker Graham’s 6’7” body while Tucker is drunk. At the same time, he is told by “Miss Etta,” (the house’s cook and initially the only person who can see or hear him) that he is charged by God with protecting Tucker. Conrad doesn’t care.
Throughout Gamma Chi’s secret pledge and initiation process there are intimate looks at (probably) pretty stereotypical pranks, drinking, and hazing. Even so, The Worthy has something to offend nearly everyone: racism, sexism, misogyny, gratuitous promiscuity, brutal violence, and elitism. But it’s a book about college fraternities – so perhaps a lot of callousness, drunkenness and debauchery are to be expected. Maybe even the contempt for women, losers, football rivals, God, and Christianity.
While The Worthy has every tired plot mechanism in modern literature, it did keep my interest - at least it kept me guessing which one would be next… right up until the end. Reading the Publisher’s hype about being sure not to miss the ending, (“There might have been a divine order of things all along”) – so I hung on. Hoping for a condemnation of the cruelties or a meaningful redemption. But alas, the highly touted ending was only an old Sir Arthur C. Clarke device from the 1960s. (Aside: Hmmm…. I wonder if there is any relation?)… Anyway, I guess the newest batch of fans is not old enough to have known that.
When I learned that Will Clarke originally had self-published and was finally able to sell options on both of his novels due to an underground cult-following that he had developed, I was gratified to know that he was finally picked up by Simon and Schuster and published in hard copy. Yay! I wanted to root for him. I wanted to like this book (at least as much as Clarke’s second novel Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles.) I’m sorry that isn’t the case.
I DO realize that there are a lot of books in a similar vein that are amazingly popular today that glorify savage violence, meaninglessness and debauchery. So, what am I trying to say? Just this: If you enjoy reading about vicious fraternity hazing, mean-spirited self-absorbed people, sadistic pain imposed on others as a validation for elitism, insatiable drunkenness, casual exploitive sex, murder and mayhem wrapped in the guise of a ghost story without much of a redemption, then this is the book for you.
- Amazon readers rating: from 15 reviews
"Lord Vishnu's Love Handles : A Spy Story (Sort Of) "
(Reviewed by Pat Neuman JAN 13, 2007)
"Shelby is a slut. She is also my wife. And that presents certain problems."
Travis Anderson has it all; a beautiful wife and young son whom he loves, and a partnership in a small internet company that has never earned him less than $300,000 a year, a nice home, and even a great dog. But he is plagued by “knowing” things. He has fantasies (visions?) of his wife being unfaithful. And he also has several other problems: a seeing things before they (may or may not) happen problem, an IRS problem, a growing suspicion of and hatred for his business partner who is running their company into the ground problem, a being-followed-by-a-blue-man problem, and he also has a surprisingly convenient drinking problem.
When the IRS comes calling, he learns that they are aware of his astounding prowess at a computer game that he plays on the internet all day at Psychic Cow.com. He’s been remarkably successful at guessing which color the cow’s utters are going to change. It turns out this web site is a secret tool for screening and identifying people who seem to have psychic powers. A private company (Shimmer) took over a project (based on a real CIA project that the government sponsored for several years) to research the usefulness of such psychic phenomena as “remote viewing,” “remote influencing,” and Rupert Sheldrake’s theory on morphic resonance.
Shimmer must still have the cooperation of the government because they make Travis an offer he can’t refuse: in exchange for his participation in some testing for a supposedly defunct program on remote viewing, the IRS $5 million dollar problem may “go away.” In fact, if he’s very successful, there might also be an additional cash bonus for him as a “private consultant.”
Shimmer’s agent, Debra McFadden, first poses as the IRS agent and subsequently as the counselor for an alcoholism intervention (serendipitously requested by Travis’s wife, Shelby) that gives him a plausible cover story for being whisked away for two months. Unfortunately, it also involves actually sobering up and being submerged into a Vishnu temple with his trainer, Ikshu, to learn the proper “relaxation” techniques to channel his psychic powers.
Soon, Travis finds himself with his head shaved as an improbable disguise and they are off to California to the Shimmer headquarters where Travis comes together with some of Shimmer’s other staff who are gradually revealed as being more and more ominous. There is the brother/sister gothic duo who do a mind meld and merge into one psychic individual to be known as SageRat. There is the lisping administrator/psychiatrist Dr. Solomon, and worst of all, the monk/trainer known as Ikshu.
Travis’s skills blossom as he learns how to develop them, but he is uneasy about their purpose and possible outcomes.
“… I do have a problem with this remote influencing stuff. I’m not sure its right. I mean, they want me to make people do things…”
“Say Shimmer offered me a million dollars to make someone like Fidel Castro shoot himself. I think I could rationalize that. He’s a Communist. He caused the Cuban Missile Crisis. And he’s a communist. I’d probably do it for a million bucks and I’d probably feel like a patriot about it. But does that make it right? I don’t know. It’s not in the world’s best interest for me to be making these kinds of decisions; I can’t even decide if sending my kid to a private school is socially irresponsible or not, much less what world leader needs to be taken out.”
“I mean, here I am born and bred to look out for me and only me, and now I’m about to be saddled with the welfare of the entire free world. There’s something wrong with this picture.”
Travis just wants to go home. And have a drink. Ultimately, he does both, only to learn that Simmer’s operatives are not allowed to retire. Soon he finds himself off on a desperate quest to save his kidnapped family and dodge the police for crimes that he was set up to appear guilty of, and at the same time to save the whole world from a mad man with an H bomb. Along the way, he is again visited by a mysterious blue monk, who may be God. On a whirlwind trip to Disney World, he has to learn how to decide whom to trust, and then ultimately get control of his emotional reactions long enough to thwart the people he has been working with at Shimmer.
This novel is so original, it would be hard to classify. It dashes and darts into so many different directions, all you can do is to hang on and race through it. Its obvious why it developed a cult following after being self-published by the author. It was optioned for a movie, which resulted in its being subsequently republished by Simon & Schuster.
- Amazon readers rating: from 3 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Lord Vishnu's Love Handles : A Spy Novel (Sort Of) (2005)
- The Worthy: A Ghost's Story (June 2006)
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- Official website for the Will Clarke
- The New York Times review of Lord Vishnu's Love Handles and The Worthy
- Rolling Stone Magazine calls Will Clarke Hot
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About the Author:
Will Clarke grew up in Louisiana graduated from LSU and now lives in Texas. He is a former advertising man and successful self-published author.