In a surreal, Wild West take on Sleeping Beauty, storied outlaw James Moxie must save his one-time lover Carol Evers from being buried alive.
Only a few people aside from Carol's shifty husband, Dwight, know that she suffers from a condition that periodically sends her spiraling into a coma resembling death and a place she calls Howltown. "Unable to shoulder the burden of caring for a woman who died so often," Moxie disappeared from her life 20 years ago. Her close friend John Bowie, in whom she also confided, has just died. Fearing that should Dwight die when she's in a coma, no one will know not to bury her, she entrusts her secret to a young maid. But it's Dwight who proves to be her greatest threat. Having had it with her freakish condition and wanting to freely lay hands on her money, he decides to make her latest "death" permanent by burying her alive. To get to her first, Moxie, who is drawn back into Carol's life by an odd funeral announcement dispatched by the maid, must elude a ruthless killer with tin legs named Smoke—a man "as monstrous as anything local folklore had invented." Other evil forces, as well as good, abound. Though the book sometimes recalls Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Malerman is too fierce an original to allow anyone else's vision to intrude on his. Where other novelists, including Gaiman, would lighten things with humor, Malerman achieves his narrative intensity with a dead seriousness. As with his other novels, this one haunts for reasons you can't quite put your finger on.
With another fascinating novel that traffics in strange and transporting states of being, Malerman (Black Mad Wheel, 2017, etc.) again defies categories and comparisons with other writers.