cover image Gone to the Wolves

Gone to the Wolves

John Wray. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-374-60333-5

Wray (Lowboy) returns with a masterly opus of Florida metalheads. Kip Norvald, Leslie Z, and Kira Carson bond as teens in the late 1980s during a drunken escapade that involves, among other things, a dude strapping himself to skis on the roof of an off-roading truck. Having survived the mischief, the three set out in search of something true. They find it in the death metal scene, where bands like Death, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse are flourishing. As Kira puts it: “That’s what metal is for. It’s a flamethrower, Norvald. It burns all the bullshit away.” After high school, the trio are pulled in different directions. Leslie Z, the flamboyant, queer ringleader, struggles with heroin addiction, Kira tends bar at the Rainbow Room in Los Angeles, and Kip becomes a rock critic. Kip and Leslie reunite in 1990 to find Kira, who has since moved to Norway and been taken in by a black metal cult. Wray writes about music with the enthusiasm of a fan and the precision of a critic, packing the pages with spot-on details and cannily capturing the allure of extreme music. The pages of this anthem are as uncompromising as the music they depict. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency. (May)