After his first novel (Ballistics, 2013), the Canadian Wilson offers a collection of 12 stories about testosterone-fueled men in a small town.
Invermere is in the Kootenay Valley, beneath the Canadian Rockies. Several stories feature John and Will Crease, a father and son. John is a veteran cop in the valley’s small towns. In "The Elasticity of Bone," he’s about to leave for Kosovo, a war zone, to train police recruits; the night before, he wrestles 17-year-old Will in a judo tournament. Then, he’s back from Kosovo with a bullet wound in his chest ("Reception"). Early the next morning, he’s challenging Will to use the punching bag with him. Some years later, in the title story, using a pulley for a tug of war while “engaged in a lifelong game of one-upmanship,” he accidentally breaks Will’s knuckles. Wilson delivers his own punch in his portrayal of these strong, stubborn men, their blood keeping them close yet unable to voice their feelings, about women or anything else. There’s a far different father-son relationship in "Valley Echo." The pipe fitter Conner and his wife are hash addicts, which is rough on their son, Winch. Fortunately, he has a lifeline in his gramps, who teaches him how to shoot. His death (natural causes) leaves Winch bereft but with enough strength to fight his dad (more broken knuckles). Fists are always flying in Invermere. This is not Mayberry, Wilson makes clear, too insistently. The hicks, or hoodlums, are always looking for a chance to taunt and bully. Will’s schoolboy buddy Mitch gets his revenge, setting a trap for a hick; the kid dies. Mitch is remorseful ("Don’t Touch the Ground"). When the dealings with the women in their lives go bad, the locals head into the wilderness, suicidally (see "Big Bitchin’ Cow" and, again, the title story); or they start drinking in dumb disbelief ("The Mathematics of Friedrich Gauss").
Wilson’s dark world can become monotonous, but there’s no denying its raw power.