by Dennis Nils
What would a truly visionary presidential figure look and sound like in a world in which miracles really can happen? One willing to speak in a way that no “real” political figure would dare? A candidate destined to become a modern Beowulf tested not only by the present, but also by the ancient, geologic past?
As winter turns to spring,Tuscaloosa,Alabamais overrun by a thick fog, bizarre thunder storms, and a string of astonishing murders. In parallel, Dan Morgan, an expert in cognitive disorders, faces the gravest ordeal of his life as he campaigns to becomeAlabama’s next governor. He not only has an uphill battle against a popular, local good-old-boy, but discovers that he must also contend with a time of legend stretching back to ancient Eocene seas. Yet even as he struggles against a trio of monsters – a giant bird, a snarly toothed sea serpent, and a murderous but conflicted Neanderthal – Dan Morgan comes to realize that his greatest challenges still lie in this world with its fractured intimacies and divisive politics.
Praise for BWLF
“BWLF, by Dennis Nils, is an ambitious first novel that mixes up Norse legends, paleontology, and modern politics with a bit of southern romance thrown in for good stead, chews off a whole mess of story and digests most. The set up is classic for the Alabama setting Drogseth, a former Woodstock resident, establishes. Dan Morgan is an Ivy League-trained psychiatrist with heroic elements to his background, including a gold medal in the butterfly at the Olympics and a Rhodes scholarship. He’s come home to the Tuscaloosa area to start an innovative clinic…and has been roped into running for governor against the car salesman son of a former Alabama governor. Add in a fresh engagement to a leading media mogul and kingmaker’s daughter, who’s secretly schtupping his political opponent, and a potential sister-in-law he’s increasingly more attracted to than to his would-be-wife, and we start teetering from Robert Penn Warren into Walker Percy and Donna Tartt territory. Then odd things start to happen. Morgan’s dad, an eccentric professor, opens a hole into time and unleashes some forces from real early time. Horrific murders start occurring and a second character, a New York detective moved south for the job, pieces together that they may involve a Neanderthal, a massive prehistoric bird, and a third human perpetrator. And then we, and Morgan, learn that the Neanderthal may actually be a reincarnated Grendel, from the early English (and quasi-Norse) classic Beowulf. And Morgan himself is, well…it’s quite fun, all told.
Sure, it gets quite convoluted at times, given the number of threads being woven in all directions. But there’s an element in the political story at the base of everything here, wherein Morgan tries to be a truthsayer to an entertainment-obsessed and GOP-controlled electorate, that’s quite thrilling much of the time. Yes, the speeches Morgan delivers, all about the evils our democracy is facing from rampant capitalist greed and neo-Fascist nationalism, run too long, especially given that we’ve been in that world now for the past few months. But just summoning this world, and what might happen should real heroism enter into it, makes for some fascinating effects.
America in decline, our exceptionalism questioned, the idea of our competitiveness debunked…all delivered with disembowlings, beheadings, and putrid sea creatures the size of aircraft carriers? The book’s publishers, it turns out, are dedicated to audiences who eat up “geek fiction,” so we suspect BWLF will find its modicum of success.
Moreover, because it’s a fun and well-tried premiere, we expect to see more of Dennis Nils, or whatever name Drogseth uses for his coming works in this planned-for quartet. Even better, this one has the potential to be one of those novels better served as a film.”
- Paul Smart, Woodstock Times (10/24/2012)
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