cover image Daniel O'Thunder

Daniel O'Thunder

Ian Weir, Douglas & McIntyre (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-55365-435-3

In this delicious jumble of a novel, Weir has created an epic hero in the person of Daniel O'Thunder, a pugilist-evangelist on a mission to challenge the Devil to a boxing match right there in Queen Victoria's London. Believing that he must defeat this last and greatest foe, the aging Irishman prepares to fight his way from his dark past to salvation with a righteous right hook. The story lurches from narrator to narrator, including Nell, the clever whore; Jaunty, the devious trainer; Piper, the reporter; and the mysterious Jack, compiler of the story and perhaps traitor. These unreliable witnesses recount Daniel's comeback in the ring and his growing and catastrophic influence among the downtrodden of London's gin-soaked backstreets, and also, not inconsequentially, their encounters with Lord Sculthorpe, the curious aristocrat who underwrites Daniel's boxing matches but bets against him, keeps Nell in luxury for a time, and is evil incarnate, or so we are led to believe. Drenched in filthy Thames waters and coiffed in muttonchops, Weir's outlandish tale is a top-shelf page-turner, with commentary on the fickle role of the writer thrown into the whole glorious, fractured mess. (Apr.)