The Water Wolf
Thomas Sullivan

Onyx (Imprint of New American Library)
Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Review by Nickolas Cook

After reading only a few pages of The Water Wolf it was easy to see why author Thomas Sullivan was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (The Phases of Harry Moon – 1988).  Indeed, it didn’t take long to figure out Sullivan is a writer that almost defies description or genre.  His artistry with the English language is not to be denied.  He is a consummate creator; one that surely must make every writer who reads him turn green with at least a smidgen of envy.  In fact, if there were any justice in the world of literature, Sullivan would have a world wide following of millions, and stand tall on the best seller’s list with every release.

His newest novel, The Water Wolf, takes place in Ireland, the land of whiskey, fog and dirty limericks; but more importantly, the land of fairies and unexplainable ancient powers beneath the earth.

Lane Anderson is a best selling non-fiction author, and debunker of mysteries, with a zealot’s belief in science and reason. Growing up in the uncertain care of a free spirited hippy mother in a flower power commune, he has turned away from all things spiritual as untenable trusts reserved for the gullible of the world.  But when he discovers an ancient connection of eons old tunnels that may very well span the earth, and a series of unexplainable ancient pillars of stone that hold a force trapped beneath the earth, a force that claimed his father’s life while he was still a newborn, his trail of mysteries brings him to Ireland, where he falls in love, fights for his life, and talks with the spirits, while still trying to deny anything beyond reason and logic.

It was a joy to read this novel.  It had all the earmarks of honest to goodness literary horror.  What do I mean by that?  Simply that it uses the tropes, but does not allow them to become the focus of the story.  It is a horror novel, but it’s so much more than a facile attempt at titillation.  This story is purely character motivated.  In many ways it’s a novel about Lane Anderson’s lost faith, his unspoken disappointment with the lack of mysteries in his life, and, by book’s end, his need for faith in the one place he has never looked before.  To explain more would be to give away the book’s denouement.  And after all of Sullivan’s wonderful character development, mood setting, careful pacing, and atmospheric use of the language, that would be unforgivable.

As a reader, this is a damned good book that deserves a larger readership.

As a writer, I guarantee if you’re looking to learn to write something with pathos and maturity, you need look no further than The Water Wolf.  I would not hesitate to stick this next to Straub, Barker, or King any day of the week, folks.

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