Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hotels and Owls

The Nightly Disease

By Max Booth III

Publisher: Darkfuse

Pub Date: December 18, 2016

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


 It is said one should write about what they know. Max Booth definitely knows something about night auditing in a hotel. Much of what is in The Nightly Disease comes from his experiences working that very job; hopefully not the actual events but from the strange and cynical atmosphere that night duty brings. Having worked a series of night shifts in a series of strange jobs in my much younger years, I can vouch that the midnight hours brings out a different and not always complimentary side of human nature. But so far none of my nighttime jobs ever involved, at least directly, owls. Only my daytime ones.

The Nightly Disease centers around a hotel night auditor by the name of Isaac. In first person narrative, he gets right down to telling us about what a lousy job he has. His only real only friend is George the night auditor at the hotel next door. Asides from George, the only other thing he looks forward to each night is the bulimic homeless girl who comes into the hotel to purge. There is one other interesting girl he meets, a new night auditor who biggest dream is to pet an owl. So it is a bad sign when she ends up dead, killed by an owl that attacks her.

Owls figure heavily in Booth's noirish yet weird novel. What their role actually is may be argued even after you finished the last page. They give the book a fantastic feel but are more of a omen (appropriately if you know your Native American folklore) than the main event. Isaac's nightly encounters are both mundane and surreal at the same time. It is a bit like Bukowski's nihilism meets Tom Robbins' mirth. Booth could have made the questionable decision to write a wandering narrative steeped in the negativity of lost hotel characters but instead he wisely chooses to add a main event that gives the plot a focus and Isaac a challenge. Isaac doesn't see it that way but views it as an exclamation point to his drudge of a life and it's inescapable dead end. But in a typical noir move there is a girl that may be his ticket to a meaningful life. Yes, it is the bulimic one. Even hotel night auditors have dreams and sometimes you have to take them where they drop.

While Booth is usually associated with writings of the surreal and bizarre, this particular book reads fairly straight. That does not mean it isn't strange, just the type of strange that makes sense in an alienating world. In fact, of the things I've read by the author, this is probably the most mainstream . (Gasp!) It is, as expected, beautifully written with dialogue and descriptions that grabs your jugular. It is a darkly comedic story which smacks head first into existential angst and comes out the other side with a least a little hope for the human race, not to mention one hotel night auditor. Max Booth III is one of those authors to look out for and The Nightly Disease is the first substantial and thoughtful fiction of the new year.

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