Wire to Wire

Overview


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 ...

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Wire to Wire

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Overview


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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When rail rider Michael Slater gets smacked in the head by a power line while riding a train through Detroit, it sets his life on a course no boxcar could follow. A few years later, working as a speed-popping video editor in New York, Slater is cursed with watching his past unfold on the screens in his editing suite. He watches the story of his fellow stowaway Harp Maitland and how the two of them—along with a cast of characters torn from an especially good police procedural—outrun drug dealers, crooked cops, and smalltown creeps without ever being particularly sympathetic: as Slater concludes, "the doomed... have no need for guilt." Sparling's debut is well crafted and thrilling, tying together an obvious love for both Michigan and railroads with an expert sense of timing and plot. The world he has created is both overwhelming and exhilarating, thanks in no small part to a large ensemble of memorable characters and a relentless pace. Indeed, hardly a page goes by without some sort of fantastic calamity throwing Slater and company into further turmoil—when the most peaceful passages of the story are speed-addled, that's saying something—but it's done so well that hopping off this runaway train would never cross a reader's mind. (June)
From the Publisher

“Sparling's debut is well crafted and thrilling, tying together an obvious love for both Michigan and railroads with an expert sense of timing and plot. The world he has created is both overwhelming and exhilarating, thanks in no small part to a large ensemble of memorable characters and a relentless pace. Indeed, hardly a page goes by without some sort of fantastic calamity throwing Slater and company into further turmoil—when the most peaceful passages of the story are speed-addled, that's saying something—but it's done so well that hopping off this runaway train would never cross a reader's mind.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review and Pick of the Week

“A strange, formidable novel about crossed signals and damage done, with plenty of peek-between-your-fingers moments for good measure."
Kirkus Reviews

“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.”
Booklist

"In this impressive debut, Scott Sparling lends contemporary grunge to the genre as he embraces its trademark obsessions with sex, cash and dead ends. His all-too-human cast of contemporary boxcar drifters, glue sniffers and thugs is drawn in an impressionistic style that makes for stunning emotional depth."
Playboy

“Smart, thrilling, and darkly funny . . . it reads like lightning . . . a muscular cross between Jim Thompson and Cormac McCarthy.”
The Oregonian

“[Scott Sparling’s] first novel moves along at a gallop, as a gallery of misfits, fuckups, and outright crooks circle around a shady criminal enterprise in the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.”
Portland Mercury

“Electric . . . it crackles.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An exciting chase through the mind and through Michigan . . . you don’t want to hop off or even go to the club car for a fast drink.”
—LansingOnlineNews.com

“The characters are as complex as the plot and Sparling does a masterful job of tangling them up while keeping the details lucid and telling.”
The Collagist

Wire to Wire ends up being what so many pulp writers think they’re making but end up missing: an exploration of the proper aims of existence.”
—Open Letters Monthly

“It’s rare to find so many interesting and compelling characters in a single book. Wire to Wire, the first novel from Portland-based author Scott Sparling, shines.”
Portland Book Review

"In the tradition of the great noir novels, Wire to Wire, is really
something. Like being in a stolen car with no brakes in a world of train
hopping, sex, violence, and drugs. It’s all edge from start to finish."
—Willy Vlautin, author of The Motel Life

“Scott Sparling writes like a man on fire, and Wire to Wire is the wickedly brilliant crime novel forged in the white-hot heat of his talent. It's an electrifying debut by a writer who knows the wrong side of town like the back if his hand. People, if there is a God, this book will win prizes.”
—Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time

“Sparling's spare prose comes with a glint of wit and a persistent quirky intelligence that does two singular things--it completely seduces the reader and convincingly asserts that even the most hapless among us lead rich and complicated lives.”
—HTML Giant

Kirkus Reviews

Adizzying, speed-laced debut novel from Portland-based writer Sparling.

With Dexedrine-slamming rail riders, a glue-sniffing femme fatale and a lead protagonist whose point of view is skewed under the best of circumstances, the book is a worthy combination of Bob Seger nostalgia and dope-fueled noir, but it's not always the easiest story to follow. The framing device: video editor Michael Slater's editing suite, where the pill-popping film slicer screens scenes from his own life. Michael has never been quite the same since a peculiar, life-altering incident. While riding on top of a hurtling freight train with his amigo Harp Maitland, a power line zaps the young adventurer with 33,000 volts to the forehead. Now Slater has a head full of holes, and he sometimes sees people who aren't there. From there, it's a hallucinatory road trip from Arizona to Michigan, which Slater describes in loving detail. It's a blistered postcard of passing Americana, stitched together with diners, pool halls and pickup trucks, not to mention the freight trains that Sparling himself rode. Technically, it's a crime novel—there's violence and sex and things on fire. But it's obvious that the author is more interested in what's bouncing around in his hero's fractured head and spilling it out onto the page than he is in tidy endings. Slater explains his peculiar interests to a fellow traveler as a train narrowly misses a cow on the tracks. "I was disappointed," he says. "I wanted to see the cow explode. Things start to go wrong and I like to watch."

A strange, formidable novel about crossed signals and damage done, with plenty of peek-between-your-fingers moments for good measure.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935639053
  • Publisher: Tin House Books
  • Publication date: 5/24/2011
  • Series: A Tin House New Voice
  • Pages: 375
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.26 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author


Scott Sparling grew up near railroad tracks in Southern Michigan and later attended Antioch College. Wire to Wire is his first novel. Large portions of it were written in Northern Michigan, Seattle, Portland, and in a tree house near Sucker Lake. He now lives outside Portland, Oregon with his wife and son.
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