Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Author: Kerry Copeland Smith
Publisher: The Peppertree Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61493-112-6 (HC)
Presented as an old man’s confession, THE BOOGIE TRAPP starts off harmlessly as a boyhood memory of the 1950s in rural Alabama, near Birmingham. These are days marked by slingshots, “dope” (soda pop), blood brothers, flat tires, and racial prejudice without politics. Kerry Copeland Smith gives his 72-year-old narrator a beguiling voice, and for someone approximately his age, the details of his setting and activities in Black Creek bring back a time when 13-year-old kids enjoyed relative freedom between hours in school, got away with as much as they could, and were tolerated and quietly watched over by church-going adults.
Inseparable buddies, Boogie and Trapper, are planning to score with the girls at a special party being thrown by one of them on a Saturday night. Boogie gets slicked up early in the day and, evading too many questions, tells his family he is going to a friend’s house. Taking off on his bike to meet his best friend at the home of a young mother who is not shy, he hopes to see her breastfeed. Later they go to a store and exchange jokes with two black boys. All of this time (and it is a long windup), we are made gradually aware of the social attitudes in the town, and that these two and their families are good people in rough times handed out by a coal mining economy in a segregationist South.
But then the author gets down to business. There is a man in and out of town about whom rumors fly; he likes little boys. They happen to come across him in a strange car. He asks them to help him out in exchange for five dollars. His truck is stuck in the creek. Thinking about the money, the boys agree.
About one-quarter into this meandering tale of bravery in the face of pedophilia, I began to feel sick and to question the novelist’s intent. If I hadn’t promised to review it, I would never have chosen to go beyond this point. It might be because I am old and female and found the smaller revelations, such as how boys talked about their body parts, enough titillation for my taste. But I continued, because the author’s word crafting is masterful. As I said, he draws you in and tells you cultural things you never knew before, and about places you’ve never been. The bulk of it is mesmerizing and terrifying. His description of how to slip through a wet woods, gradually becoming cold, scared, with filthy and torn clothes, and crawl around on rocks along a creek without being seen, are moment-by-moment, hand by hand. I could imagine the film.
But not quite. It wouldn’t pass the censors as is. Really. The language alone goes way beyond what is needed to impress upon the reader the depravity of this villain. I won’t say more because I am sure there are some of you who will read the book out of curiosity, and because the ending is perhaps somewhat redeeming. Besides, most of the other reviews are five stars.
As I write this, LinkedIn is sponsoring a discussion among Fiction Writers and Editors, “Are we glamorizing violence in our works of fiction because it sells?” In general, I would say “too often,” but I feel certain this book is not a case in point. I think the author is sincere. Kerry Copeland Smith has enormous talent. In this novel he cleverly moves back and forth from the past to the present, so that you become absolutely convinced everything he-as-narrator says about himself and his book project is true. In an interview on blogspot.com (January 16, 2013), he says his second book will be very different, but he also says he may follow up on Boogie in the future.