cover image Wolf


Douglas A. Martin. Nightboat, $15.95 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-64362-022-0

In this disorienting yet arresting novella, Martin (Acker) exhumes a nearly 20-year-old case in which two preteen brothers murdered their sleeping father with a baseball bat in Florida. Martin’s omniscient narrator shifts between different points of view and time frames to explore the father’s self-justification for his abusive treatment and scenes of the unnamed brothers’ trial. The boys, who had been in and out of foster homes before the killing, detail their father’s psychological abuse, including being subjected to “interrogations” and locked in a cramped room in the house, where “a face feels crushed in.” As the boys chafe against their father’s discipline, they spend more time with the father’s friend, who just might be a convicted pedophile. After the man tells the boys they could all be friends, the boys see a way out and begin plotting their father’s murder. The who, what, where, when, and why of the case gradually come to light, but Martin is more concerned with psychological impressionism than journalistic clarity. Events are described by the narrator with an eerie vagueness that dissipates only with the brutal slaying: “In all actuality it only takes about five minutes to do dying.” Martin subjects language to similar torsions, which can occasionally frustrate or baffle, throughout the somber tale’s unwinding. This heartbreaking story of patricide will move readers with its startling notes of empathy. (May)