Douglas Pike is no longer the murderous hustler he was in his youth, but reforming hasn’t made him much kinder. He’s just living out his life in his Appalachian hometown, working odd jobs with his partner, Rory, hemming in his demons the best he can. And his best seems just good enough until his estranged daughter overdoses and he takes in his twelve-year-old granddaughter, Wendy.
Pike has been shortlisted for France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, Prix des Balais d’or 2013, and Le Festival International du Film Policier de Beaune. It is the winner of the 2011 Spinetingler Award: Best Novel – New Voice.
Just as the two are beginning to forge a relationship, Derrick Kreiger, a dirty Cincinnati cop, starts to take an unhealthy interest in the girl. Pike and Rory head to Cincinnati to learn what they can about Derrick and the death of Pike’s daughter, and the three men circle, evenly matched predators in a human wilderness of junkie squats, roadhouse bars and homeless Vietnam vet encampments.
“Whitmer’s writing is swift, brutal, precise poetry, formed into the shape of people– breathing, hateful, murderous, vulnerable people that I care about deeply now. His characters are broken to begin with, and yet he breaks them open again and again, each time revealing a darker, thicker black sludge inside, and yet, this is also a story about innocence and trying to protect what tiny amount there is. There isn’t a trace of sentimentality in here, but whatever tiny embers of warmth that are to be found in this devastated landscape (a landscape so bleak it approaches, at time, allegory, and yet remains disturbingly visceral), those embers are completely earned and the meager heat thrown off by them all the more valuable because of it. I feel covered in blood.”
–Charles Yu, author of Third Class Superhero and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
“This is what noir is, what it can be when it stops playing nice–blunt force drama stripped down to the bone, then made to dance across the page.”
–Stephen Graham Jones, author of Demon Theory and Ledfeather
“Without so much as a sideways glance towards gentility, Pike is one righteous mutherfucker of a read. I move that we put Whitmer’s balls in a vise and keep slowly notching up the torque until he’s willing to divulge the secret of how he managed to hit such a perfect stride his first time out of the blocks.”
–Ward Churchill, author and activist
“Benjamin Whitmer’s Pike captures the grime and the rage of my not-so fair city with disturbing precision. The words don’t just tell a story here, they scream, bleed, and burst into flames. Pike, like its eponymous main character, is a vicious punisher that doesn’t mince words or take prisoners, and no one walks away unscathed. This one’s going to haunt me for quite some time.”
–Nathan Singer, author of Prayer for Dawn and Chasing the Wolf
“Pike is the stuff of country songs, murder ballads and oh, opera. It goes for the throat and then it gets serious.” – Jedidiah Ayres, Ransom Notes: The BN Mystery Blog
“It remains an impressive achievement, a tightly plotted, fast paced nightmare. I emerged from it like a fish out of water, startled, gasping to get back in.” – Len Wanner, The Crime of it All
“[W]e’ll be talking about Pike years from now.” – Nik Korpon, Spinetingler Magazine
“Folks, let’s hope Benjamin Whitmer never tries to be anything other than what he is, because Pike is proof positive that what he is is a kick-ass writer with a boatload of talent. More, please.” – Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
“Pike may just might be the best noir novel that we’ve seen in years, a true black novel if there ever was one.” – Brian Lindenmuth, Spinetingler Magazine
“Rarely do debut novels pack such a punch.” – Garrett Kenyon, Literary Kicks
“Certain writers should be required reading in schools the way certain movies should be required viewing in schools (American History X, etc.). Pike is one of those books … the way Cormac McCarthy’s works have etched their way into our literary Americana, so does Whitmer’s Pike belong there.” – Charlie Stella, Temporary Knucksline