Wire to Wire by Scott Sparling
Wire to Wire assembles a cast of train-hopping, drug-dealing, glue-huffing lowlifes, tells a harrowing tale of friendship and loss, and creates a stunning portrait of Northern Michigan in the late 1970s.
While riding a freight car through Detroit, Michael Slater suffers a near-fatal accident — a power line to the head. After recovering, he tries to lead a quiet life in the desert, but his problems just follow him. Slater returns to his native Michigan to seek out his old train-hopping pal, only to find that the Pleasant Peninsula of his youth is none too pleasant. Before long he finds his way into a love triangle, gets caught in the schemes of the resident drug lord, and manages to end up on the wrong side of everyone and everything in the small town of Wolverine. When the violent sociopath Slater left to die in the desert tracks him down, the chance of getting out of this hell unscathed starts to look slim.
Three years later, Slater sits in a dark video-editing suite, popping speed like penny candy, trying to reconcile himself with the unfilmed memories that haunt his screens and his conscience.
Scott Sparling’s debut novel, with echoes of Robert Stone and Denis Johnson, pays homage to one of our most popular and enduring genres — the American crime novel.
“Sparling’s debut novel employs a fascinating ensemble cast of low-life outcasts and desperadoes in the economically devastated area of northwestern Michigan, circa 1980. The main character, Michael Slater, modulates the jolt of his amphetamines with beer and occasionally sees things that aren’t there. Slater also hops freight trains for lengthy rides with his buddy Harp and begins an affair with Harp’s lady, the glue-sniffing Lane. Lane’s brother is a drug dealer and pimp with a cash-flow problem, and he leverages Slater and Harp into a scheme designed to make him solvent. At the same time, a determined sadist is searching Michigan for Slater, committed to killing him very slowly. Sparling creates compelling, many-faceted characters and a nuanced portrait of a beautiful and tragic place. His writing is self-assured, suffused with a streetwise insouciance, always edgy, and frequently lyrical, particularly on the pleasures of riding the rails to find some kind of peace—or escape. (Sparling’s website makes it clear that he has firsthand experience with riding the rails.)”